Subcellular preservation in giant ostracod sperm from an early Miocene cave deposit in Australia Academic Article uri icon


  • Cypridoidean ostracods are one of a number of animal taxa that reproduce with giant sperm, up to 10 000 µm in length, but they are the only group to have aflagellate, filamentous giant sperm. The evolution and function of this highly unusual feature of reproduction with giant sperm are currently unknown. The hypothesis of long-term evolutionary persistence of this kind of reproduction has never been tested. We here report giant sperm discovered by propagation phase contrast X-ray synchrotron micro- and nanotomography, preserved in five Miocene ostracod specimens from Queensland, Australia. The specimens belong to the species Heterocypris collaris Matzke-Karasz et al. 2013 (one male and three females) and Newnhamia mckenziana Matzke-Karasz et al. 2013 (one female). The sperm are not only the oldest petrified gametes on record, but include three-dimensional subcellular preservation. We provide direct evidence that giant sperm have been a feature of this taxon for at least 16 Myr and provide an additional criterion (i.e. longevity) to test hypotheses relating to origin and function of giant sperm in the animal kingdom. We further argue that the highly resistant, most probably chitinous coats of giant ostracod sperm may play a role in delaying decay processes, favouring early mineralization of soft tissue.


  • Matzke-Karasz, R
  • Neil, JV
  • Smith, RJ
  • Symonova, R
  • Morkovsky, L
  • Archer, M
  • Hand, SJ
  • Cloetens, P
  • Tafforeau, P

publication date

  • 2014