The Associated Press
updated 9/17/2003 7:58:26 AM ET 2003-09-17T11:58:26

Scientists have discovered fossils of the world’s oldest genitals — belonging to 400 million-year-old insects — in ancient rocks in Scotland. The penis of the ancient harvestmen insects, commonly known as a daddy longlegs, was two-thirds the length of the body and remarkably similar to the modern-day species, New Scientist magazine said Wednesday.

“THE DISCOVERY of the world’s oldest genitals proves that little has changed over the last 400 million years — at least for daddy longlegs,” the magazine said.

Jason Dunlop and a team of researchers from Humbolt University in Berlin, who will present their findings at a conference in Aberdeen, also uncovered a long egg-laying organ called an ovipositor from a female.

“As well as genitals, the fossils have the oldest known arachnid respiratory system, suggesting harvestmen’s ancestors had long since crawled out of the sea and learned to breathe,” the magazine said.

Harvestmen arachnids are sometimes mistaken for spiders, but they are more closely related to ticks or mites because they do not spin webs.

The previous oldest penis, which dated back 100 million years and was found in Brazil, belonged an ostracod, an early crustacean related to crabs, shrimps and water fleas.

© 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.

© 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments