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Reproductive system
pictorial illustration of the human male reproductive system.
Latin systemata genitalia

The reproductive system or genital system is a system of organs within an organism which work together for the purpose of reproduction. Many non-living substances such as fluids, hormones, and pheromones are also important accessories to the reproductive system.[1] Unlike most organ systems, the sexes of differentiated species often have significant differences. These differences allow for a combination of genetic material between two individuals, which allows for the possibility of greater genetic fitness of the offspring.[2]

The major organs of the human reproductive system include the external genitalia (penis and vulva) as well as a number of internal organs including the gamete producing gonads (testicles and ovaries). Diseases of the human reproductive system are very common and widespread, particularly communicable sexually transmitted diseases.[3]

Most other vertebrate animals have generally similar reproductive systems consisting of gonads, ducts, and openings. However, there is a great diversity of physical adaptations as well as reproductive strategies in every group of vertebrates.


Human reproductive system

Human reproduction takes place as internal fertilization by sexual intercourse. During this process, the erect penis of the male is inserted into the female's vagina until the male ejaculates semen, which contains sperm, into the female's vagina. The sperm then travels through the vagina and cervix into the uterus or fallopian tubes for fertilization of the ovum. Upon successful fertilization and implantation, gestation of the foetus then occurs within the female's uterus for approximately nine months, this process is known as pregnancy in humans. Gestation ends with birth, the process of birth is known as labor. Labor consists of the muscles of the uterus contracting, the cervix dilating, and the baby passing out the vagina. Human's babies and children are nearly helpless and require high levels of parental care for many years. One important type of parental care is the use of the mammary glands in the female breasts to nurse the baby.[4]

Humans have a high level of sexual differentiation. In addition to differences in nearly every reproductive organ, numerous differences typically occur in secondary sexual characteristics.

Male reproductive system

Partially shaved erect male genitalia. 1. Testicles, 2. Epididymis, 3. Corpus cavernosa, 4. Foreskin, 5. Frenulum, 6. Urethral opening , 7. Glans penis, 8. Corpus spongiosum, 9. Penis, 10. Scrotum.

The human male reproductive system is a series of organs located outside of the body and around the pelvic region of a male that contribute towards the reproductive process. The primary direct function of the male reproductive system is to provide the male gamete or spermatozoa for fertilization of the ovum.

The major reproductive organs of the male can be grouped into three categories. The first category is sperm production and storage. Production takes place in the testes which are housed in the temperature regulating scrotum, immature sperm then travel to the epididymis for development and storage. The second category are the ejaculatory fluid producing glands which include the seminal vesicles, prostate, and the vas deferens. The final category are those used for copulation, and deposition of the spermatozoa (sperm) within the female, these include the penis, urethra, vas deferens, and Cowper's gland.

Major secondary sexual characteristics includes: larger, more muscular stature, deepened voice, facial and body hair, broad shoulders, and development of an adam's apple. An important sexual hormone of males is androgen, and particularly testosterone.[5]

Female reproductive system

Photograph of the vulva. 1. Pubic hair (shaved), 2.Clitoral hood, 3. Clitoris, 4. Labia majora, 5. Labia minora (enclosing the Vaginal Opening), 6. Perineum.

The human female reproductive system is a series of organs primarily located inside of the body and around the pelvic region of a female that contribute towards the reproductive process. The human female reproductive system contains three main parts: the vagina, which acts as the receptacle for the male's sperm, the uterus, which holds the developing fetus, and the ovaries, which produce the female's ova. The breasts are also an important reproductive organ during the parenting stage of reproduction.

The vagina meets the outside at the vulva, which also includes the labia, clitoris and urethra; during intercourse this area is lubricated by mucus secreted by the Bartholin's glands. The vagina is attached to the uterus through the cervix, while the uterus is attached to the ovaries via the fallopian tubes. At certain intervals, typically approximately every 28 days, the ovaries release an ovum, which passes through the fallopian tube into the uterus. The lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, and unfertilized ova are shed each cycle through a process known as menstruation.

Major secondary sexual characteristics include: a smaller stature, a high percentage of body fat, wider hips, development of mammary glands, and enlargement of breasts. Important sexual hormones of females include estrogen and progesterone.[5]

Production of gametes

The production of gametes takes place within the gonads through a process known as gametogenesis. Gametogenesis occurs when certain types of germ cells undergo meiosis to split the normal diploid number of chromosomes in humans (n=46) into haploids cells containing only 23 chromosomes.[6]

In males this process is known as spermatogenesis and takes place only after puberty in the seminiferous tubules of the testes. The immature spermatozoon or sperm are then sent to the epididymis where they gain a tail and motility. Each of the original diploid germs cells or primary spermatocytes forms four functional gametes which is each capable of fertilization.

In females gametogenesis is known as oogenesis which occurs in the ovarian follicles of the ovaries. This process does not produce mature ovum until puberty. In contrast with males, each of the original diploid germ cells or primary oocytes will form only one mature ovum, and three polar bodies which are not capable of fertilization.

It has long been understood that in females, unlike males, all of the primary oocytes ever found in a female will be created prior to birth, and that the final stages of ova production will then not resume until puberty.[6] However, recent scientific data has challenged that hypothesis.[7] This new data indicates that in at least some species of mammal oocytes continue to be replenished in females well after birth. [8]

Development of the reproductive system

The development of the reproductive system and urinary systems are closely tied in the development of the human fetus. Despite the differences between the adult male and female reproductive system, there are a number of homologous structures shared between them due to their common origins within the fetus. Both organ systems are derived from the intermediate mesoderm. The three main fetal precursors of the reproductive organs are the Wolffian duct, Müllerian ducts, and the gonad. Endocrine hormones are a well known and critical controlling factor in the normal differentiation of the reproductive system.[9]

The Wolffian duct forms the epididymis, vas deferns, ductus deferens, ejaculatory duct, and seminal vesicle in the male reproductive system and essentially disappears in the female reproductive system. For the Müllerian Duct this process is reversed as it essentially disappears in the male reproductive system and forms the fallopian tubes, uterus, and vagina in the female system. In both sexes the gonad goes on to form the testes and ovaries, because they are derived from the same undeveloped structure they are considered homologous organs. There are a number of other homologous structures shared between male and female reproductive systems. However, despite the similarity in function of the female fallopian tubes and the male epididymis and vas deferens, they are not homologous but rather analogous structures as they arise from different fetal structures.

Examples of homologous human reproductive organs
Male organ Female organ Shared function
Cowper's gland Bartholin's glands Lubrication secretions
Penis Clitoris Erectile tissue and sensation
Testes Ovary Gamete production
Prostate gland Skene's gland Ejaculatory fluid and sensation

Diseases of the human reproductive system

Like all complex organ systems the human reproductive system is affected by many diseases. There are four main categories of reproductive diseases in humans. They are: 1) genetic or congenital abnormalities, 2) cancers, 3) infections which are often sexually transmitted diseases, and 4) functional problems cause by environmental factors, physical damage, psychological issues, autoimmune disorders, or other causes. The best known type of functional problems include sexual dysfunction and infertility which are both broad terms relating to many disorders with many causes.

Specific reproductive diseases are often symptoms of other diseases and disorders, or have multiple, or unknown causes making them difficult to classify. Examples of unclassifiable disorders include Peyronie's disease in males and endometriosis in females. Many congenial conditions cause reproductive abnormalities but are better known for their other symptoms, these include: Turner syndrome, Klinefelter's syndrome, Cystic fibrosis, and Bloom syndrome.[10]

It is also known that disruption of the endocrine system by certain chemical adversely affects the development of the reproductive system and can cause vaginal cancer.[11] Many other reproductive diseases have also been link to exposure to synthetic and environmental chemicals. Common chemicals with known links to reproductive disorders include: lead, dioxin, styrene, toluene, and pesticides.[12]

Examples of congenital abnormalities

  • Kallmann syndrome - Genetic disorder causing decreased functioning of the sex hormone-producing glands caused by a deficiency of a hormone.
  • Cryptorchidism - Absence of one or both testes from the scrotum.
  • Androgen insensitivity syndrome - A genetic disorder causing people who are genetically male (i.e. XY chromosome pair) to develop sexually as a female due to an inability to utilize androgen.
  • Intersexuality - A person who has genitalia and/or other sexual traits which are not clearly male or female.

Examples of cancers

Examples of infections

Examples of functional problems

Other vertebrates

Vertebrate animals all share key elements of their reproductive systems. They all have gamete producing organs or gonads. These gonads are then connected by oviducts to an opening to the outside of the body, typically the cloaca, but sometime to a unique pore such as a vagina or intromittent organ.


Newborn joey sucking on a teat in the pouch

Most mammal reproductive systems are similar, however, there are some notable differences between the "normal" mammal and humans. For instance, most mammalian males have a penis which is stored internally until erect, and most have a penis bone or baculum. Additionally, males of most species do not remain continually sexually fertile as humans do. Like humans, most groups of mammals have descended testicles found within a scrotum, however, others have descended testicles that rest on the ventral body wall, and a few groups of mammals, such as elephants, have undescended testicles found deep within their body cavities near their kidneys.[13][14]

Marsupials are unique in that the female has two vaginae, both of which open externally through one orifice but lead to different compartments within the uterus; males usually have a two-pronged penis which corresponds to the females' two vaginae. Marsupials typically develop their offspring in an external pouch containing teats to which their newborn young (joeys) attach themselves for post uterine development. Also, marsupials have a unique prepenial scrotum.[15]

The uterus and vagina are unique to mammals with no homologue in birds, reptiles, amphibians, or fish.[16] In place of the uterus the other vertebrate groups have an unmodified oviduct leading directly to a cloaca, which is a shared exit-hole for gametes, urine, and feces. Monotremes (i.e. platypus and echidnas), a group of egg-laying mammals, also lack a uterus and vagina, and in that respect have a reproductive system resembling that of a reptile.


Male and female birds have a cloaca, an opening through which eggs, sperm, and wastes pass. Intercourse is performed by pressing the lips of the cloacae together, which is sometimes known as the "cloacal kiss", during which time the male transfers his sperm to the female. A few species of birds (e.g. most waterfowl) have a intromittent organ which is known as a phallus that is analogous to the mammals' penis. The female lays amniotic eggs in which the young gestate. Unlike most vertebrates female birds typically have only one functional ovary and oviduct.[17] As a group, birds, like mammals, are noted for their high level of parental care.


Reptiles are almost all sexually dimorphic, and exhibit internal fertilization through the cloaca. Some reptiles lay eggs while others are viviparous (animals that deliver live young). Reproductive organs are found within the cloaca of reptiles. Most male reptiles have copulatory organs, which are usually retracted or inverted and stored inside the body. In turtles and crocodilians, the male has a single median penis-like organ, while male snakes and lizards each possess a pair of penis-like organs.

A female frog sitting in a mass of its own spawn.


Most amphibians exhibit external fertilization of eggs, typically within the water, though some amphibians such as caecilians have internal fertilization.[18] All have paired, internal gonads, connected by ducts to the cloaca.


Fish exhibit a wide range of different reproductive strategies. Most fish however are oviparous and exhibit external fertilization. In this process, females use their cloaca to release a large quantities their gametes, called spawn, into the water and one or more males release "milt", a white fluid containing many sperm over the unfertilized eggs. Other species of fish are oviparous and have internal fertilization aided by pelvic or anal fins that are modified into an intromittent organ analogous to the human penis.[19] A small portion of fish species are either viviparous or ovoviviparous, and are collectively known as livebearers.[20]

Fish gonads are typically pairs of either ovaries or testes. Most fish are sexually dimorphic but some species are hermaphroditic or unisexual.[21]


Invertebrates have an extremely diverse array of reproductive systems, the only commonality may be that they all lay eggs. Also, aside from cephalopods, and arthropods, nearly all other invertebrates are hermaphroditic and exhibit external fertilization.


All cephalopods are sexually dimorphic and reproduce by laying eggs. Most cephalopods have semi-internal fertilization in which the male places his gametes inside the female's mantle cavity or pallial cavity to fertilize the ova found in the female's single ovary.[22] Likewise, male cephalopods have only a single teste. In the female of most cephalopods the nidamental glands aid in development of the egg.

The "penis" in most unshelled male cephalopods (Coleoidea) is a long and muscular end of the gonoduct used to transfer spermatophores to a modified arm called a hectocotylus. That in turn is used to transfer the spermatophores to the female. In species where the hectocotylus is missing, the "penis" is long and able to extend beyond the mantle cavity and transfers the spermatophores directly to the female.

Many cephalopods shed their gonads during reproduction, and thus only reproduce once. Most cephalopods die after reproducing. Females nautilus however, have the ability to regenerate their gonads, making them the only cephalopods to spawn once per year. The females in many cephalopod species exhibit some level of parental protection for their eggs.

See also


  1. ^ Introduction to the Reproductive System. SEER's Training Website. U.S. National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program.
  2. ^ Reproductive System 2001 Body Guide powered by Adam
  3. ^ STD's Today National Prevention Network, Center for Disease Control, United States Government, retrieving 2007
  4. ^ Sexual Reproduction in Humans. 2006. John W. Kimball. Kimball's Biology Pages, and online textbook.
  5. ^ a b Hormones of the Reproductive System 2006. John W. Kimball. Kimball's Biology Pages, and online textbook.
  6. ^ a b Development of sex cells in Reproductive system, Body Guide. Adam.
  7. ^ Tilly JL, Niikura Y, Rueda BR (August 2008). "The Current Status of Evidence for and Against Postnatal Oogenesis in Mammals: A Case of Ovarian Optimism Versus Pessimism?". Biol. Reprod. 80: 2. doi:10.1095/biolreprod.108.069088. PMID 18753611. 
  8. ^ Johnson J, Canning J, Kaneko T, Pru JK, Tilly JL (March 2004). "Germline stem cells and follicular renewal in the postnatal mammalian ovary". Nature 428 (6979): 145–50. doi:10.1038/nature02316. PMID 15014492. 
  9. ^ [ EDRI Federal Project Inventory: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Abnormal Reproductive Development] US EPA. Dr. William R. Kelce. 2006.
  10. ^ Genetic Conditions > Reproductive system. 2007. Genetics Home Reference. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  11. ^ "Endocrine Disruptors" (PDF). National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  12. ^ Infertility and Related Reproductive Disorders. 2003. Ted Schettler, MD. The collaborative on health and the environment.
  13. ^ Werdelin L, Nilsonne A (January 1999). "The evolution of the scrotum and testicular descent in mammals: a phylogenetic view". J. Theor. Biol. 196 (1): 61–72. doi:10.1006/jtbi.1998.0821. PMID 9892556. 
  14. ^ Descent of the testicles. P.Z. Myers. Pharyngula blog. 2004.
  15. ^ Renfree, Marilyn; Tyndale-Biscoe, C. H. (1987). Reproductive physiology of marsupials. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-33792-5. 
  16. ^ Evolution of the mammalian vagina. P.Z. Myers. Pharyngula blog. Tuesday, November 01, 2005.
  17. ^ Avian Reproduction: Anatomy & the Bird Egg Gary Ritchison. BIO 554/754 Ornithology. Eastern Kentucky University.
  18. ^ Grzimek, B. (1974). Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia: Volume 5 Fishes II & Amphibians.. New York: Van Nostrand Reihnhold Co.. pp. p. 301–302. 
  19. ^ Fish Reproduction
  20. ^ Science, Biology, and Terminology of Fish reproduction: Reproductive modes and strategies-part 1. 2002. MARTIN MOE. THE BREEDER'S NET Online Magazine
  21. ^ Bony Fish Reproduction 2002. SeaWorld/Busch Gardens Animal Information Database.
  22. ^ Cephalopods. The Living World of Molluscs. Robert Nordsieck.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

IN ANATOMY. REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM - The reproductive system in some parts of its course shares structures in common with the urinary system. In this article the following structures will be dealt with. In the male the testes, epididymis, vasa deferentia, vesiculae seminales, prostate, penis and urethra. In the female the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina and vulva.

Male Reproductive Organs. The testes or testicles are the glands in which the male reproductive cells are formed. They lie, one on each side, in the scrotum surrounded by the tunica vaginalis (see Coelom and Serous Membranes). Each is an oval gland about one and a half inches long with its long axis directed downward, backward and inward. There is a strong fibrous coat called the tunica albuginea, from which vertical and horizontal septa penetrate into the substance, thus dividing it into compartments or lobules in which the seminiferous tubes are coiled. It is estimated that the total length of these seminiferous tubes in the two glands is little short of a mile. (See fig. I.) At the posterior part of the testis the fibrous sheath is greatly thickened to form the mediastinum testis, and contains a plexus of tubules called the rete testis (see fig. I), into which the seminiferous tubes open. In this way the secretion of the gland is carried to its upper and back part, whence from fifteen to twenty small tubes (vasa efferentia) pass to the epididymis. Each of these is convoluted before opening, and forms what is known as a cones vasculosus. Under the microscope the seminiferous tubules are seen to consist of a basement membrane surrounding several layers of epithelial cells, some of which are constantly being transformed into spermatozoa or male sexual cells.

The epididymis (see fig. i) is a soft body lying behind the testis; it is enlarged above to form the globus major or head, while below is a lesser swelling, the globus minor or tail. The whole epididymis is made up of a convoluted tube about 20 ft. long, from which one long diverticulum (vas aberrans) comes off. Between the globus major and the testis two small vesicles called the hydatids of Morgagni are often found.

The vas deferens is the continuation of the tube of the epididymis and starts at the globus minor; at first it is convoluted, but soon becomes straight, and runs up on the inner (mesial) side of the epididymis to the external abdominal ring in the abdominal wall. On its way up it is joined by several other structures, to form the spermatic cord; these are the artery (spermatic) and veins (pampiniform plexus) of the testis, the artery of the vas, the ilio-inguinal, genito-crural and sympathetic nerves, and the testicular lymphatics. After entering the external abdominal ring, these structures pass obliquely through the abdominal wall, lying in the inguinal canal for an inch and a half, until the internal abdominal ring is reached. Here they separate and the vas passes down the side of the pelvis and turns XXIII. 5 ,??t,t??+,1 3 ?,i - a, ??tQ ' '44,V3"0.131, 104*,1 1 411,141,)S'Y04 vS T 4 ta, k 11, g.

From A. F. Dixon, Cunningham's Text-book of Anatomy. FIG. I. - Diagram to illustrate the structure of the testis and epididymis.

c.v. Coni vasculosi. s.t. Seminiferous c. Globus major. tubule.

g.m'. Globus minor. v.d. Vas deferens.

r. v. Rete testis v.e. Vas efferens.

s. Septula testis. v.r. Tubuli recti.

Missing image

while the paroOphoron, like the organ of Giraldes in the male, is probably formed from some separate tubes (see fig. 8, Ep. 0. and Par. 0.).

The Wolffian duct, which, in the early embryo, carries the excretion of the mesonephros to the cloaca, forms eventually the body and tail of the epididymis, the vas deferens, and ejaculatory duct in the male, the vesicula seminalis being developed as a pouch in its course. In the female this duct is largely done away with, but remains as the collecting tube of the epoOphoron, and in some mammals as the duct of Gartner, which runs down the side of the vagina to open into the vestibule.

The Miillerian duct, as it approaches the cloaca, joins its fellow of the opposite side, so that there is only one opening into the ventral cloacal wall. In the male the lower part only of it remains as the uterus masculinus (fig. 8, U.M.), but in the female the Fallopian tubes, uterus, and probably the vagina, are all formed from it (fig. 8, F.T. and U.). In both sexes a small hydatid or vesicle is liable to be formed at the beginning of both the Wolffian and Miillerian duct (fig. 8, P.H. and S.H.); in the male these are close together in front of the globus major of the epididymis, and are known as the sessile and pedunculated hydatids of Morgagni. In the female there is a hydatid among the fimbriae of the Fallopian tube which of course is Miillerian and corresponds to the sessile hydatid in the male, while another is often found at the beginning of the collecting tube of the epoOphoron and is probably formed by a blocked mesonephric tubule. This is the pedunculated hydatid of the male. The development of the vagina, as Berry Hart (Journ. Anat. and Phys. xxxv. 330). has pointed out, is peculiar. Instead of the two Miillerian ducts joining to form the lumen of its lower third, as they do in the case of the uterus and its upper two-thirds, they become obliterated, and their place is taken by two solid cords of cells, which Hart thinks are derived from the Wolffian ducts and are therefore probably of ectodermal origin, though this is open to doubt. These cords later become canalized and the septum between them is obliterated.

The common chamber, or cloaca, into which the alimentary, urinary and reproductive tubes open in the foetus, has the urinary bladder (the remains of the allantois) opening from its ventral wall (see Placenta and Urinary System).

During development the alimentary or anal part of the cloaca is separated from the urogenital, and in the article Alimentary System the hitherto accepted method of this separation is described. The question has, however, lately been reinvestigated by F. Wood Jones, who says that the anal part is completely shut off from the urogenital and ends in a blind pouch which grows toward the surface and meets a new ectodermal depression, the main point being that the permanent anus is not, according to him, any part of the original cloacal aperture, but a new perforation. This description is certainly more in harmony with the malformations occurring in this region than the old one, and only awaits confirmatory evidence to be generally accepted.

The external generative organs have at first the same appearance in the two sexes, and consist of a swelling, the genital eminence, in the ventral wall of the cloaca. This in the male becomes the penis and in the female the clitoris. Throughout the generative system the male organs depart most from the undifferentiated type, and in the case of the genital eminence two folds grow together and enclose the urogenital passage, thus making the urethra perforate the penis, while in the female these two folds remain separate as the labia minora or nymphae. Sometimes in the male the folds fail to unite completely, and then there is an opening into the urethra on the under surface of the penis - a condition known as hypospadias.

In the undifferentiated condition the integument surrounding the genital opening is raised into a horseshoelike swelling with its convexity over the pubic symphysis and its concavity toward the anus; the lateral parts of this remain separate in the female and form the labia majora, but in the male they unite to form the scrotum. The median part forms the mons Veneris or mons Jovis.

The Descent of the Testis

It has been shown that the testis is formed in the loin region of the embryo close to the kidney, and it is only in the later months of foetal life that it changes this position for that of the scrotum. In the lower part of the genital ridge a fibro-muscular cord is formed which stretches from the lower part of the testis to the bottom of the scrotum; it is known as the gubernaculum testis, and by its means the testis is directed into the scrotum. Before the testis descends, a pouch of peritoneum called the processus vaginalis passes down in front of the gubernaculum through the opening in the abdominal wall, which afterwards becomes the inguinal canal, into the scrotum, and behind this the testis descends, carrying with it the mesonephros and mesonephric duct. These, as has already been pointed out, form the epididymis and vas deferens. At the sixth month the testis lies opposite the abdominal ring, and at the eighth reaches the bottom of the scrotum and invaginates the processus vaginalis from behind. Soon after birth the communication between that part of the processus vaginalis which now surrounds the testis and the general cavity of the peritoneum disappears, and the part which remains forms the tunica vaginalis. Sometimes the testis fails to pass beyond the inguinal canal, and the term " cryptorchism " is used for such cases.

In the female the ovary undergoes a descent like that of the testis, but it is less marked owing to the fact that the gubernaculum becomes attached to the Miillerian duct where that duct joins its fellow to form the uterus; hence the ovary does not descend lower than the level of the top of the uterus, and the part of the gubernaculum running between it and the uterus remains as the ligament of the ovary, while the part running from the uterus to the labium is the round ligament. In rare cases the ovary may be drawn into the labium just as the testis is drawn into the scrotum.

Comparative Anatomy

In the Urochorda, the class to which Salpa, Pyrosoma and the sea squirts (Ascidians) belong, male and female generative glands (gonads) are present in the same individual; they are therefore hermaphrodite.

In the Acrania (Amphioxus) there are some twenty-six pairs of gonads arranged segmentally along the side of the pharynx and intestine and bulging into the atrium. Between them and the atrial wall, however, is a rudimentary remnant of the coelom, through which the spermatozoa or ova (for the sexes are distinct) burst into the atrial cavity. There are no genital ducts.

In the Cyclostomata (lampreys and hags) only one median gonad is found, and its contents (spermatozoa or ova) burst into the coelom and then pass through the genital pores into the urogenital sinus and so to the exterior. It is probable that the single gonad is accounted for by the fact that its fellow has been suppressed.

In the Elasmobranchs or cartilaginous fishes there are usually two testes or two ovaries, though in the dogfish one of the latter is suppressed. From each testis, which in fish is popularly known as the soft roe, vasa efferentia lead into the mesonephros, and the semen is conducted down the vas deferens or mesonephric duct into the urogenital sinus, into which also the ureters open. Sometimes one or more thin-walled diverticula - the sperm sacs - open close to the aperture of the vas deferens. In the female the ova are large, on account of the quantity of yolk, and they burst into the coelum, from which they pass into the large Miillerian ducts or oviducts. In the oviparous forms, such as the common dogfish (Scyllium), there is an oviducal gland which secretes a horny case for the egg after it is fertilized, and these cases have various shapes in different species. Some of the Elasmobranchs, e.g., the spiny dogfish (Acanthias), are viviparous, and in these the lower part of the oviduct is enlarged and acts as a uterus. In male elasmobranchs the anterior part of the Miillerian duct persists. Paired intromittent organs (claspers) are developed on the pelvic fins of the males; these conduct the semen into the cloaca of the female.

In the teleostean and ganoid fishes (Teleostomi) the nephridial ducts are not always used as genital ducts, but special coelomic ducts are formed (see Coelom and Serous Mem Branes) .

In the Dipnoi or mudfish long coiled Miillerian ducts are present, but the testes either pour their secretion directly into the coelom or, as in Protopterus, have ducts which are probably coelomic in origin.

In both the Teleostomi and Dipnoi the testes and ovaries are paired.

True hermaphroditism is known among fishes, the hag (Myxine) and the sea perch (Serranus) being examples. In many others it occurs as an abnormality.

In the Amphibia both ovaries and testes are symmetrical. In the snakelike forms which are found in the order Gymnophiona the testes are a series of separate lobules extending for a long distance, one behind the other, and joined by a connecting duct from which vasa efferentia pass into the Malpighian capsules of the kidneys, and so the sperm is conducted to the mesonephric duct, which acts both as vas deferens and ureter. The Miillerian ducts or oviducts are long and often coiled in Amphibia, and usually open separately into the cloaca. There is no penis, but in certain forms, especially the Gymnophiona, the cloaca is protrusible in the male and acts as an intromittent organ. Corpora adiposa or fat bodies are present in all Amphibians, and probably nourish the sexual cells during the hibernating period.

In Reptilia two testes and ovaries are developed, though they are often asymmetrical in position. In Lizards the vas deferens and ureter open into the cloaca by a common orifice; as they do in the human embryo. In these animals there are two penes, which can be protruded and retracted through the vent; but in the higher reptiles (Chelonia and Crocodilia) there is a single median penis rising from the ventral wall of the cloaca, composed of erectile tissue and deeply grooved on its dorsal surface for the passage of the sperm.

In birds the right ovary and oviduct degenerates, and the left alone iš functional. In the male the ureter and vas deferens open separately into the cloaca, and in the Ratitae (ostriches) and Anseres (ducks and geese) a well-developed penis is present in the male. In the ostrich this is fibrous, and bifurcated at its base, suggesting the crura penis of higher forms.

Among the Mammalia the Monotremata (Ornithorhynchus and Echidna) have bird-like affinities. The left ovary is larger than the right, and the oviducts open separately into the cloaca and do not fuse to form a uterus. The testes retain their abdominal position; and the vasa deferentia open into the base of the penis, which lies in a separate sheath in the ventral wall of the cloaca, and shows an advance on that of the reptiles and birds in that the groove is now converted into a complete tunnel. In the female there is a well-developed clitoris, having the same relations as the penis.

In the marsupials the cloaca is very short, and the vagina and rectum open separately into it. The two uteri open separately and three vaginae are formed, two lateral and one median. The two lateral join together below to form a single median lower vagina, and it is by means of these that the spermatozoa pass up into the oviducts. The upper median vagina at first does not open into the lower one, but during parturition a communication is established which in some animals remains permanent (see J. P. Hill, Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S. Wales, 1899 and 1900). This tripartite arrangement of the upper part of the marsupial vagina is of especial interest in connexion with the views of the embryology of the canal detailed by Berry Hart and already referred to.

When, as in marsuf ials, the two uteri open separately into the vagina by two ora, the arrangement is spoken of as uterus duplex. When the two uteri join below and open by one os externum, it is known as uterus bipartitus. When the uterus bifurcates above and has two horns for the reception of the Fallopian tubes (oviducts), but is otherwise single, the term uterus bicornis is given to it, while the 'single uterus of man and other Primates is called uterus simplex. From the marsupials upward the ovarian end of the Fallopian tube has the characteristic fimbriated appearance noticed in human anatomy.

In some mammals, such as the sow and the cow, the Wolffian duct is persistent in the female and runs along the side of the vagina as the duct of Gartner. It is possible that the lateral vaginae of the marsupials are of Wolffian origin.

In marsupials the testes descend into the scrotum, which lies in these animals in front of instead of behind the penis. In some mammals, such as the elephant, they never reach the scrotum at all; while in others, e.g. many rodents, they can be drawn up into the abdomen or lowered into the scrotum. The subject of the descent of the testicles has been very fully treated by H. Klaatsche, " Ueber den Descensus testiculorum," Morph. Jahrb., Bd. xvi.

The prostate is met with in its most simple forms in marsupials, in which it is a mere thickening of the mucous membrane of the urethra; in the sheep it forms a bilateral elongated mass of gland tissue lying behind the urethra and surrounded by a welldeveloped layer of striped muscle. In the sloth it is said to be altogether absent, while in many of the insectivores and rodents it consists of many lobes which usually show a bilateral arrangement. The vesiculae seminales are usually present in the Eutheria or higher mammals, and sometimes, as in the hedgehog, are very large, though they are absent in the Carnivora. Cowper's glands are usually present and functional throughout From C. S. Wallace's Prostatic Enlargement. FIG. 9. - Transverse Section of Sheep's Prostate.

life. The uterus masculinus is also usually present, but there is grave doubt whether the large organ called by this name in the rabbit should not rather be regarded as homologous with part of the vesiculae seminales. The penis shows many diversities of arrangement; above the marsupials its two crura obtain an attachment to the ischium. In many mammals it is quite hidden by the skin in the flaccid condition, and its external orifice may range from the perineum in the marsupials to the middle of the ventral wall of the abdomen in the ruminants. In the Marsupialia, Rodentia, Chiroptera, Carnivora and some Primates an os penis is developed in connexion with the corpora cavernosa.

The clitoris is present in all mammals; sometimes, as in the female hyena, it is very large, and at others, as in the lemur, it is perforated by the urethra.

For further details and literature, see Oppel's Lehrbuch der vergleich. mikroskop. Anatomie der Wirbelthiere, Bd. iv. (Jena, 1904); also Gegenbaur's Vergleich. Anat. der Wirbelthiere, and Wiedersheim's Comparative Anatomy of Vertebrates, translated by W. N. Parker (London, 1907). (F. G. P.)

<< Reproduction Of Plants

Johann Georg Repsold >>

Simple English

A reproductive system is the part of an organism that makes them able to sexually reproduce. Humans and other animals use their reproductive systems to have sexual intercourse as well as reproduce.

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