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The term sperm is derived from the Greek word (σπέρμα) sperma (meaning "seed") and refers to the male reproductive cells. In the types of sexual reproduction known as anisogamy and oogamy, there is a marked difference in the size of the gametes with the smaller one being termed the "male" or sperm cell. The human sperm cell is haploid, so that its 23 chromosomes can join the 23 chromosomes of the female egg to form a diploid cell. A uniflagellar sperm cell that is motile is referred to as a spermatozoon, whereas a non-motile sperm cell is referred to as a spermatium. Sperm cells cannot divide and have a limited life span, but after fusion with egg cells during fertilization, a totipotent zygote is formed with the potential to develop into a new organism.
The spermatozoa of animals are produced through spermatogenesis inside the male gonads (testicles) via meiotic division. They are carried out of the male body in a fluid known as semen. Mammalian sperm cells can live for up to 3 days inside the female reproductive system.
Sperm cells in algal and many plant gametophytes are produced in male gametangia (antheridia) via mitotic division. In flowering plants, sperm nuclei are produced inside pollen.