A strange ancient creature used a trident for sex 400 million years ago (photo)
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Scientists have found that the characteristic process on the head of an ancient arthropod played an important role in the fight for mating with females.
Scientists from the US and UK have conducted a new study of an ancient creature called a trilobite. They lived at the bottom of ancient oceans and seas hundreds of millions of years ago. Some representatives of these arthropods have strange processes on their heads that resemble a trident in shape. Scientists hypothesized that this trident was more important not for life, but in order to “compete” for the right to mate with females. With its help, scientists believe, the trilobite turned the opponent over and thus could have sex with the chosen female, writes ScienceAlert.
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Trilobites, which belong to the genus Walliserops, lived on the sea floor more than 400 million years ago. But a distinctive feature of these individuals was the presence on the head of a process in the form of a trident. Scientists studied the fossil of a trilobite, which belongs to the species Walliserops trifurcatus, and it turned out that in this invertebrate, an ordinary trident has not 3, but 4 teeth. If this process were necessary for survival, then most likely this individual would not have survived to adulthood. Therefore, scientists decided that most likely this trident was used to fight other males for the right to mate with a female.
< p>According to Richard Fortey of the Natural History Museum of Great Britain, the purpose of the giant trident in trilobites of this genus has long been a mystery. And a new hypothesis suggests that it was used to dominate other males.
“If our hypothesis is correct, then such an unusual anatomy is one of the earliest evidence of sexual battles in the animal kingdom on the planet. That is, rivalry between males for a female hundreds of millions of years older than thought,” says Forti.
< p>Scientists believe that the closest example of sexual combat in the modern animal kingdom that can be compared to potential trilobite combat is the behavior of rhinoceros beetles. They also use special head structures to defeat rivals.
“This trident appears to have played a key role in the mating process of Walliserops trilobites,” says Forti.
But there is one problem. Scientists admit that it is not yet known for sure whether trilobites even had a difference in males and females and, accordingly, whether their appearance was different. So far, scientists have not been able to identify any females, although they may also have had smaller tridents.
“It's hard to draw definitive conclusions about extinct animals because we only have their fossils. But our theory is probably correct “, says Forti.
Focus has already written that scientists have discovered a unique trilobite fossil. This creature survived the attack and grew a new eye 450 million years ago.