May 29, 2008

380 Million Year Old Fish Found with Unborn Embryos

Museum Victoria’s expedition has announced a remarkable 380 million year old fossil placoderm fish with intact embryo and mineralised umbilical cord.

The discovery, published in Nature and one of the most significant ever made by Australian scientists, makes the fossil the world’s oldest known vertebrate mother. It also provides the earliest evidence of vertebrate sexual reproduction, wherein the males (which possessed clasping organs similar to modern sharks and rays) internally fertilised females.

This fossil has been named Materpiscis attenboroughi, meaning ‘mother fish’, in honour of Sir David Attenborough, who first drew attention to the significance of the Gogo sites in his 1979 series Life on Earth.

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