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A human ovum with corona radiata surrounding it

An ovum (plural ova, from the Latin word ovum meaning egg or egg cell) is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization. In lower plants and algae, the ovum is also often called oosphere.

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Ovoviparity

There is an intermediate form, the ovoviviparous animals: the embryo develops within and is nourished by an egg as in the oviparous case, but then it hatches inside the mother's body shortly before birth, or just after the egg leaves the mother's body. Some fish, reptiles and many invertebrates use this technique.

Ova development in oviparous animals

In the oviparous animals (all birds, most fishes, amphibians and reptiles) the ova develop protective layers and pass through the oviduct to the outside of the body. They are fertilized by male sperm either inside the female body (as in birds), or outside (as in many fishes). After fertilization, an embryo develops, nourished by nutrients contained in the egg. It then hatches from the egg, outside the mother's body. See egg (biology) for a discussion of eggs of oviparous animals.

The egg cell's cytoplasm and mitochondria (and chloroplasts in plants) are the sole means of the egg being able to reproduce by mitosis and eventually form a blastocyst after fertilization.

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Simple English

An ovum (Latin: "egg", plural: ova) is the name for the haploid female reproductive cell, or gamete. Both animals and land plants (embryophytes) produce ova.

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Mammals

Humans

[[File:|right|thumb|A sperm cell fusing with an ovum]] Ova are made and released by a female's ovaries. At birth, a female has all of her eggs, and from puberty, she releases an egg once a month until none are left. This is called oogenesis.

When the ovum is fertilised by a male's sperm, it becomes a zygote, which develops into a new organism. The ovum is fertilized inside the female body, and the embryo then develops inside the uterus, being fed by the mothers placenta.

The ovum is the largest cell in the human body. You can see it without a microscope. The human ovum is between 100 and 200 µm long. They are nevertheless much smaller than the cleidoic eggs laid externally by reptiles and birds, which is why they need a long period of internal development in the womb.[1][2][3][4]

Other mammals

The sexual cycle is quite different in other mammals, whose females are only receptive during their 'heat', which triggers the release of eggs from the ovary. Sexual activity then continues for a few days, then ceases entirely until the next heat.

Plants

In many plants, ova are made inside archegonia through meiosis. The archegonium has a long 'neck' with the egg cell inside. When the egg is mature, the neck opens and sperm swims in to fertilize the egg.

In flowering plants, the female gametes are made of only eight cells, called the embryo sac, inside the ovule. The cell closest to the opening of the embryo sac becomes the egg cell. When pollinated, sperm swims into the embryo sac and fertilizes the egg. The zygote then develops into an embryo inside the ovule.

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