The Fossilised remains uncovered in Australia put back the history of sex by up to 30 million years. While the experience was unlikely to have been memorable for the animals, the discovery has excited scientists who said that the fossils open a window on one of the most ancient ecosystems.
''In general, individuals of an organism grow close to each other, in part, to ensure reproductive successs, in Funisia, we are very likely seeing sexual reproduction in Earth's early ecosystem -- possibly the very first instance of sexual reproduction in animals on our planet.'' said Mary Droser, one of the paleontologists involved in the study and a professor of Earth sciences at University of California Riverside.
Funisia dorothea grew in abundance, covering the seafloor, during the Neoproterozoic, a 100 million-year period ending around 540 million years ago in Earth's history.
''How Funisia appears in the fossils clearly shows that ecosystems were complex very early in the history of animals on Earth -- that is, before organisms developed skeletons and before the advent of widespread predation,'' the Science Daily quoted Droser as saying.
According to Droser, the clusters of similarly sized individuals of Funisia are strongly suggestive of ''spats,'' huge numbers of offspring an organism gives birth to at once. Besides producing spats, the individual tubular organisms reproduced by budding, and grew by adding bits to their tips.
"Among living organisms, spat production results almost always from sexual reproduction and only very rarely from asexual reproduction," Droser said.