LUCKNOW, India (AFP) - In what may be the world's longest act of sexual congress, Indian scientists have discovered two fungal cells in a union that began some 65 million years ago.
"In other words, two cells of the unicellular organisms were found in a fused state," Ranjit K. Kar, one of the scientists, told AFP on Thursday.
The discovery was made by Kar and a team of scientists at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Paleobotany in Lucknow, the capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. It was reported in the latest issue of the Indian journal "Current Science."
Since the cells involved are smaller than a hair's breadth, a scientist and a microscope are required to see the romance in the joining of the Myxomycetes cells, a variety of creeping slime mold.
According to Kar, the organisms were in a state of development known as the "swarm cell" state in which they are mobile -- using flagella, or whip-like appendages, to help them move around.
The flagella are lost when the cells sexually unite with other cells.
"The fossil showing two swarm cells in fused position and shedding of their flagella is evidence that the two cells had sex," Kar said.
He said it was the first time the sexual act between two such tiny organisms has been discovered preserved in a fossil state.
"The sexual organs being delicate and the time of conjugation short-lived, it is indeed rare to get this stage in the fossil state," wrote Kar in the journal.
The fossil was discovered in a dry well, 10 meters (33 feet) deep, in a state in central India. The area is known for volcanic deposits and fossil discoveries.
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