Hermaphrodite

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Mating Cornu aspersum (garden snails) Snails mating.jpg
Mating Cornu aspersum (garden snails)

In biology, a hermaphrodite ( /hɜːrˈmæfrədt/ ) is an organism that has complete or partial reproductive organs and produces gametes normally associated with both male and female sexes. [1] Many taxonomic groups of animals (mostly invertebrates) do not have separate sexes. [2] In these groups, hermaphroditism is a normal condition, enabling a form of sexual reproduction in which either partner can act as the "female" or "male." For example, the great majority of tunicates, pulmonate snails, opisthobranch snails, earthworms, and slugs are hermaphrodites. Hermaphroditism is also found in some fish species and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates. Most plants are also hermaphrodites.

Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their physical structure, chemical processes, molecular interactions, physiological mechanisms, development and evolution. Despite the complexity of the science, there are certain unifying concepts that consolidate it into a single, coherent field. Biology recognizes the cell as the basic unit of life, genes as the basic unit of heredity, and evolution as the engine that propels the creation and extinction of species. Living organisms are open systems that survive by transforming energy and decreasing their local entropy to maintain a stable and vital condition defined as homeostasis.

Taxonomy (biology) The science of identifying, describing, defining and naming groups of biological organisms

In biology, taxonomy is the science of naming, defining (circumscribing) and classifying groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics. Organisms are grouped together into taxa and these groups are given a taxonomic rank; groups of a given rank can be aggregated to form a super-group of higher rank, thus creating a taxonomic hierarchy. The principal ranks in modern use are domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. The Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus is regarded as the founder of the current system of taxonomy, as he developed a system known as Linnaean taxonomy for categorizing organisms and binomial nomenclature for naming organisms.

Sexual reproduction Reproduction process that creates a new organism by combining the genetic material of two organisms

Sexual reproduction is a type of life cycle where generations alternate between cells with a single set of chromosomes (haploid) and cells with a double set of chromosomes (diploid). Sexual reproduction is by far the most common life cycle in eukaryotes, for example animals and plants.

Contents

Historically, the term hermaphrodite has also been used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochoristic species, especially human beings. The word intersex has come into usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing, [3] [4] as well as "scientifically specious and clinically problematic." [5]

Intersex Innate variations in sex characteristics such that individuals differ from norms for male or female bodies

Intersex people are individuals born with any of several variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies". Such variations may involve genital ambiguity and combinations of chromosomal genotype and sexual phenotype other than XY-male and XX-female.

A rough estimate of the number of hermaphroditic animal species is 65,000. [6] The percentage of animal species that are hermaphroditic is about 5%. (Although the current estimated total number of animal species is about 7.7 million, the study [6] , which estimated the number, 65,000, used an estimated total number of animal species, 1,211,577 from "Classification phylogénétique du vivant (Vol. 2)" - Lecointre and Le Guyader (2001)). Most hermaphroditic species exhibit some degree of self-fertilization. The distribution of self-fertilization rates among animals is similar to that of plants, suggesting that similar processes are operating to direct the evolution of selfing in animals and plants. [6]

Etymology

The term derives from the Latin : hermaphroditus, from Ancient Greek : ἑρμαφρόδιτος, romanized: hermaphroditos, [7] which derives from Hermaphroditus (Ἑρμαφρόδιτος), the son of Hermes and Aphrodite in Greek mythology. According to Ovid, he fused with the nymph Salmacis resulting in one individual possessing physical traits of male and female sexes; [8] according to the earlier Diodorus Siculus, he was born with a physical body combining male and female sexes. [9] The word hermaphrodite entered the English lexicon as early as the late fourteenth century. [10] Alexander ab Alexandro stated, using the term hermaphrodite, that the people who bore the sexes of both man and woman were regarded by the Athenians and the Romans as monsters, and thrown into the sea at Athens and into the Tiber at Rome. [11]

Hermaphroditus Son of Aphrodite and Hermes in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos was the son of Aphrodite and Hermes. According to Ovid, he was born a remarkably handsome boy with whom the naiad Salmacis fell in love and prayed to be united forever. A god, in answer to her prayer, merged their two forms into one and transformed them into an androgynous form. His name is compounded of his parents' names, Hermes and Aphrodite. He was one of the Erotes.

Hermes ancient Greek god of roads, travelers, and thieves

Hermes is the god of trade, heralds, merchants, commerce, roads, thieves, trickery, sports, travelers, and athletes in Ancient Greek religion and mythology; the son of Zeus and the Pleiad Maia, he was the second youngest of the Olympian gods.

Aphrodite is an ancient Greek goddess associated with love, beauty, pleasure, passion and procreation. She is identified with the planet Venus, which is named after the Roman goddess Venus, with whom Aphrodite was extensively syncretized. Aphrodite's major symbols include myrtles, roses, doves, sparrows, and swans.

Zoology

Sequential hermaphrodites

Shells of Crepidula fornicata (common slipper shell). Crepidula fornicata.JPG
Shells of Crepidula fornicata (common slipper shell).
Clownfish are initially male; the largest fish in a group becomes a female. Ocellaris clownfish.JPG
Clownfish are initially male; the largest fish in a group becomes a female.
Most species of parrotfish start life as females and later change into males. Parrotfish Timor.jpg
Most species of parrotfish start life as females and later change into males.

Sequential hermaphrodites (dichogamy) occur in species in which the individual is born as one sex, but can later change into the opposite sex. [12] This contrasts simultaneous hermaphrodites, in which an individual may possess fully functional male and female genitalia. Sequential hermaphroditism is common in fish (particularly teleost fish) and many gastropods (such as the common slipper shell), and some flowering plants. Sequential hermaphrodites can only change sex once. [13] Sequential hermaphroditism can best be understood in terms of behavioral ecology and evolutionary life history theory, as described in the size-advantage mode [14] first proposed by Michael T. Ghiselin [15] which states that if an individual of a certain sex could significantly increase its reproductive success after reaching a certain size, it would be to their advantage to switch to that sex.

In biology, a species is the basic unit of classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. Other ways of defining species include their karyotype, DNA sequence, morphology, behaviour or ecological niche. In addition, paleontologists use the concept of the chronospecies since fossil reproduction cannot be examined.

Teleost infraclass of fishes

The teleosts or Teleostei are by far the largest infraclass in the class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes, and make up 96% of all extant species of fish. Teleosts are arranged into about 40 orders and 448 families. Over 26,000 species have been described. Teleosts range from giant oarfish measuring 7.6 m (25 ft) or more, and ocean sunfish weighing over 2 t, to the minute male anglerfish Photocorynus spiniceps, just 6.2 mm (0.24 in) long. Including not only torpedo-shaped fish built for speed, teleosts can be flattened vertically or horizontally, be elongated cylinders or take specialised shapes as in anglerfish and seahorses. Teleosts dominate the seas from pole to pole and inhabit the ocean depths, estuaries, rivers, lakes and even swamps.

Common slipper shell species of mollusc

The common slipper shell,, has many other common names, including common Atlantic slippersnail, boat shell, quarterdeck shell, fornicating slipper snail, Atlantic slipper limpet and it is known in Britain as the "common slipper limpet". This is a species of medium-sized sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc in the family Calyptraeidae, the slipper snails and cup and saucer snails.

Sequential hermaphrodites can be divided into three broad categories:

<i>Amphiprion</i> genus of clownfish

Amphiprion is a genus of ray-finned fish which comprises all but one of the species of clownfish or anemonefish in the subfamily Amphiprioninae of the family Pomacentridae.

Symbiosis type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms

Symbiosis is any type of a close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms, be it mutualistic, commensalistic, or parasitic. The organisms, each termed a symbiont, may be of the same or of different species. In 1879, Heinrich Anton de Bary defined it as "the living together of unlike organisms". The term was subject to a century-long debate about whether it should specifically denote mutualism, as in lichens; biologists have now abandoned that restriction.

Sea anemone Order of cnidarians

Sea anemones are a group of marine, predatory animals of the order Actiniaria. They are named after the anemone, a terrestrial flowering plant, because of the colourful appearance of many. Sea anemones are classified in the phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, subclass Hexacorallia. As cnidarians, sea anemones are related to corals, jellyfish, tube-dwelling anemones, and Hydra. Unlike jellyfish, sea anemones do not have a medusa stage in their life cycle.

Dichogamy can have both conservation-related implications for humans, as mentioned above, as well as economic implications. For instance, groupers are favoured fish for eating in many Asian countries and are often aquacultured. Since the adults take several years to change from female to male, the broodstock are extremely valuable individuals.

Simultaneous hermaphrodites

Turbellarians mating by penis fencing. Each has two penises on the undersides of their heads which they use to inject sperm. Mating Pseudobiceros bedfordi.png
Turbellarians mating by penis fencing. Each has two penises on the undersides of their heads which they use to inject sperm.
Earthworms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive organs. Mating earthworms.jpg
Earthworms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, having both male and female reproductive organs.

A simultaneous (or synchronous) hermaphrodite (or homogamous) is an adult organism that has both male and female sexual organs at the same time. [12] Self-fertilization often occurs.

Pseudohermaphroditism

When spotted hyenas were first discovered by explorers, they were thought to be hermaphrodites. Early observations of spotted hyenas in the wild led researchers to believe that all spotted hyenas, male and female, were born with what appeared to be a penis. The apparent penis in female spotted hyenas is in fact an enlarged clitoris, which contains an external birth canal. [21] [22] It can be difficult to determine the sex of wild spotted hyenas until sexual maturity, when they may become pregnant. When a female spotted hyena gives birth, they pass the cub through the cervix internally, but then pass it out through the elongated clitoris. [23]

Humans

Hermaphroditus, the "son" of the Greek god Hermes and the goddess Aphrodite, origin of the word "hermaphrodite". Hermaphroditus lady lever.jpg
Hermaphroditus, the "son" of the Greek god Hermes and the goddess Aphrodite, origin of the word "hermaphrodite".
The Obando Fertility Rites in the Philippines, before becoming a Catholic festival, was initially an Anitist ritual dedicated to the hermaphrodite deity, Lakapati, who presided over fertility. Fertilityobandojf.JPG
The Obando Fertility Rites in the Philippines, before becoming a Catholic festival, was initially an Anitist ritual dedicated to the hermaphrodite deity, Lakapati, who presided over fertility.
1860 photograph by Nadar of an intersex person displaying genitalia, one of a nine-part series. The series may be the earliest medical photographic documentation of intersex. Nadar - "Hermaphrodite" (Seventh Gallica image).jpg
1860 photograph by Nadar of an intersex person displaying genitalia, one of a nine-part series. The series may be the earliest medical photographic documentation of intersex.

Hermaphrodite is used in older literature to describe any person whose physical characteristics do not neatly fit male or female classifications, but some people advocate to replace the term with intersex. [26] [27] Intersex describes a wide variety of combinations of what are considered male and female biology. Intersex biology may include, for example, ambiguous-looking external genitalia, karyotypes that include mixed XX and XY chromosome pairs (46XX/46XY, 46XX/47XXY or 45X/XY mosaic).

Clinically, medicine currently describes intersex people as having disorders of sex development, a term vigorously contested. [28] [29] This is particularly because of a relationship between medical terminology and medical intervention. [30] Intersex civil society organizations, and many human rights institutions, [31] [32] have criticized medical interventions designed to make intersex bodies more typically male or female.

Some people who are intersex, such as some of those with androgen insensitivity syndrome, outwardly appear completely female or male, frequently without realizing they are intersex. Other kinds of intersex conditions are identified immediately at birth because those with the condition have a sexual organ larger than a clitoris and smaller than a penis.

Some humans were historically termed true hermaphrodites if their gonadal tissue contained both testicular and ovarian tissue, or pseudohermaphrodites if their external appearance (phenotype) differed from sex expected from internal gonads. This language has fallen out of favor due to misconceptions and pejorative connotations associated with the terms, [33] and also a shift to nomenclature based on genetics.

Intersex is in some caused by unusual sex hormones; the unusual hormones may be caused by an atypical set of sex chromosomes. One possible pathophysiologic explanation of intersex in humans is a parthenogenetic division of a haploid ovum into two haploid ova. Upon fertilization of the two ova by two sperm cells (one carrying an X chromosome and the other carrying a Y chromosome), the two fertilized ova are then fused together resulting in a person having dual genitalial, gonadal (ovotestes) and genetic sex. Another common cause of being intersex is the crossing over of the SRY from the Y chromosome to the X chromosome during meiosis. The SRY is then activated in only certain areas, causing development of testes in some areas by beginning a series of events starting with the upregulation of SOX9, and in other areas not being active (causing the growth of ovarian tissues). Thus, testicular and ovarian tissues will both be present in the same individual. [34]

Fetuses before sexual differentiation are sometimes described as female by doctors explaining the process. [35] This is technically not true. Before this stage, humans are simply undifferentiated and possess a Müllerian duct, a Wolffian duct, and a genital tubercle.

Botany

Hylocereus undatus, a hermaphrodite plant with both carpels and stamens. Hylocereus undatus 1.jpg
Hylocereus undatus , a hermaphrodite plant with both carpels and stamens.

Hermaphrodite is used in botany to describe a flower that has both staminate (male, pollen-producing) and carpellate (female, ovule-producing) parts. This condition is seen in many common garden plants. A closer analogy to hermaphroditism in botany is the presence of separate male and female flowers on the same individual—such plants are called monoecious. Monoecy is especially common in conifers, but occurs in only about 7% of angiosperm species. [36] The condition also occurs in some algae. [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sex organ Any anatomical part of the body involved in sexual reproduction and constituting the reproductive system in a complex organism

A sex organ is any part of an animal's body that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. The testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, are called the primary sex organs. The external sex organs – the genitals or genitalia, visible at birth in both sexes, and the internal sex organs are called the secondary sex organs.

Sex change is a process by which a person or animal changes sex – that is, by which female sexual characteristics are substituted for male ones or vice versa. Sex change may occur naturally, as in the case of the sequential hermaphroditism observed in some species. Most commonly, however, the term is used for sex reassignment therapy, including sex reassignment surgery, carried out on humans. It is also sometimes used for the medical procedures applied to intersex people. The term may also be applied to the broader process of changing gender role, including but not necessarily limited to medical procedures.

Mating The pairwise union of individuals for the purpose of sexual reproduction, ultimately resulting in the formation of zygotes.

In biology, mating is the pairing of either opposite-sex or hermaphroditic organisms, usually for the purposes of sexual reproduction. Some definitions limit the term to pairing between animals, while other definitions extend the term to mating in plants and fungi. Fertilization is the fusion of both sex cell or gamete. Copulation is the union of the sex organs of two sexually reproducing animals for insemination and subsequent internal fertilization. Mating may also lead to external fertilization, as seen in amphibians, fishes and plants. For the majority of species, mating is between two individuals of opposite sexes. However, for some hermaphroditic species, copulation is not required because the parent organism is capable of self-fertilization (autogamy); for example, banana slugs.

Sequential hermaphroditism

Sequential hermaphroditism is a type of hermaphroditism that occurs in many fish, gastropods, and plants. Sequential hermaphroditism occurs when the individual changes its sex at some point in its life. In particular, a sequential hermaphrodite produces eggs and sperm at different stages in life. Species that can undergo these changes from one sex to another do so as a normal event within their reproductive cycle that is usually cued by either social structure or the achievement of a certain age or size.

Animal sexual behaviour Sexual behavior of non-human animals

Animal sexual behavior takes many different forms, including within the same species. Common mating or reproductively motivated systems include monogamy, polygyny, polyandry, polygamy and promiscuity. Other sexual behaviour may be reproductively motivated or non-reproductively motivated.

Male The sex of an organism which produces sperm

A male (♂) organism is the physiological sex that produces sperm. Each spermatozoon can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot reproduce sexually without access to at least one ovum from a female, but some organisms can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most male mammals, including male humans, have a Y chromosome, which codes for the production of larger amounts of testosterone to develop male reproductive organs. Not all species share a common sex-determination system. In most animals, including humans, sex is determined genetically, but in some species it can be determined due to social, environmental, or other factors. For example, Cymothoa exigua changes sex depending on the number of females present in the vicinity.

Male reproductive system Reproductive system of the human male

The male reproductive system consists of a number of sex organs that play a role in the process of human reproduction. These organs are located on the outside of the body and within the pelvis.

Fish reproduction The reproductive physiology of fishes

Fish reproductive organs include testes and ovaries. In most species, gonads are paired organs of similar size, which can be partially or totally fused. There may also be a range of secondary organs that increase reproductive fitness. The genital papilla is a small, fleshy tube behind the anus in some fishes, from which the sperm or eggs are released; the sex of a fish often can be determined by the shape of its papilla.

True hermaphroditism Human disease

True hermaphroditism, clinically known as ovotesticular disorder of sex development, is a medical term for an intersex condition in which an individual is born with ovarian and testicular tissue. More commonly one or both gonads is an ovotestis containing both types of tissue.

Sexual differentiation in humans the process of development of sex differences in humans

Sexual differentiation in humans is the process of development of sex differences in humans. It is defined as the development of phenotypic structures consequent to the action of hormones produced following gonadal determination. Sexual differentiation includes development of different genitalia and the internal genital tracts, breasts, body hair, and plays a role in gender identification.

Pseudohermaphroditism is an old clinical term for an organism that is born with primary sex characteristics of one sex but develops the secondary sex characteristics that are different from what would be expected on the basis of the gonadal tissue. It can be contrasted with the term true hermaphroditism, which described a condition where testicular and ovarian tissue were present in the same individual. This language has fallen out of favor due to misconceptions and pejorative connotations associated with the terms, and also a shift to nomenclature based on genetics.

Disorders of sex development medical condition involving the reproductive system

Disorders of sex development (DSD) are medical conditions involving the reproductive system. More specifically, these terms refer to "congenital conditions in which development of chromosomal, gonadal, or anatomical sex is atypical."

An ovotestis is a gonad with both testicular and ovarian aspects. In humans, ovotestes are an infrequent anatomical variation associated with gonadal dysgenesis. In invertebrates that are normally hermaphroditic, such as most gastropods in the clade Eupulmonata, an ovotestis is a common feature of the reproductive anatomy.

The reproductive system or genital system is a system of sex organs within an organism which work together for the purpose of sexual reproduction. Many non-living substances such as fluids, hormones, and pheromones are also important accessories to the reproductive system. 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.

Reproductive system of gastropods

The reproductive system of gastropods varies greatly from one group to another within this very large and diverse taxonomic class of animals. Their reproductive strategies also vary greatly, see Mating of gastropods.

Mating of gastropods

The mating of gastropods is a vast and varied topic, because the taxonomic class Gastropoda is very large and diverse, a group comprising sea snails and sea slugs, freshwater snails and land snails and slugs. Gastropods are second only to the class Insecta in terms of total number of species. Some gastropods have separate sexes, others are hermaphroditic. Some hermaphroditic groups have simultaneous hermaphroditism, whereas some sequential hermaphroditism. In addition, numerous very different mating strategies are used within different taxa.

Intersex in history

Intersex, in humans and other animals, describes variations in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals that, according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, "do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies". Intersex people were historically termed hermaphrodites, "congenital eunuchs", or even congenitally "frigid". Such terms have fallen out of favor, now considered to be misleading and stigmatizing.

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Further reading