Old, stinky sex.

With plants!

New Scientist reports on a sordid study of the pulsing, fetid origins of life as scientists plunge into an ancient plant’s hot, stinky sex life. It involves rancid odors and bugs called “thrips”:

For approximately four weeks a year, cycads go through a pollination period. During this time, male cones use energy stored within them to raise their temperature every morning. For four hours, their temperatures can rise by as much as 12 °C.

As they heat up, the odour increases. The tiny thrips desert the cones en masse, returning only after the smell-fest has ended.

There’s video at the link showing the process of pollination-by-thrip-expulsion. Thankfully, it doesn’t come with a smellifier attachment. I’m curious about two things: One – Is this where pollination could have come from? Cycads predate flowering plants, so this stinkbomb probably precedes the birds and the bees. Two – the article refers to cycad eggs. Eggs? Plant eggs? What?