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Mating "Cornu aspersum (garden snails)

In "biology, a hermaphrodite 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 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.

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 preferred 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]

A rough estimate of the number of hermaphroditic animal species is 65,000.[6] Since the estimated total number of animal species is 8.6 million, the percentage of animal species that are hermaphroditic is about 0.7%. Arthropods are the "phylum with the largest number of species. 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]



The term derives from the "Latin: hermaphroditus, from "Ancient Greek: ἑρμαφρόδιτος, "translit. 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]


Sequential hermaphrodites[edit]

Shells of "Crepidula fornicata (common slipper shell).
"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.

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 some "jellyfish, 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.

Sequential hermaphrodites can be divided into three broad categories:

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[edit]

"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.

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.


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.[19][20] 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.[21]


"Hermaphroditus, the "son" of the Greek god "Hermes and the goddess "Aphrodite, origin of the word "hermaphrodite".
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.[22]

Hermaphrodite is used in "older literature to describe any person whose physical characteristics do not neatly fit "male or female classifications, but the term has been replaced by "intersex. 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.[23][24] This is particularly because of a relationship between medical terminology and medical intervention.[25] "Intersex civil society organizations, and many human rights institutions,[26][27] 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,[28] 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 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.[29]

Fetuses before "sexual differentiation are sometimes described as female by doctors explaining the process.[30] This is technically not true. Before this stage, humans are simply undifferentiated and possess a "Müllerian duct, a "Wolffian duct, and a "genital tubercle.


""Photo of a flower with a large orange centre and delicate yellow stamen protruding. The centre is surrounded by white petals and a halo of green and yellow spikes.
"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.[31] The condition also occurs in some algae.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster Dictionary Archived 2011-08-07 at the "Wayback Machine. Retrieved 28 June 2011
  2. ^ "hermaphroditism". "Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Archived from the original on 8 March 2013. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  3. ^ Dreger, Alice Domurat (1999). Intersex in the age of ethics (Ethics in Clinical Medicine Series ed.). Hagerstown, Md.: Univ. Publ. Group. "ISBN "978-1555721008. 
  4. ^ "Is a person who is intersex a hermaphrodite?". "Intersex Society of North America. Archived from the original on 1 July 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  5. ^ Herndon, April. "Getting Rid of "Hermaphroditism" Once and For All". "Intersex Society of North America. Archived from the original on 27 September 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Jarne P, Auld JR (September 2006). "Animals mix it up too: the distribution of self-fertilization among hermaphroditic animals". Evolution. 60 (9): 1816–24. "doi:10.1554/06-246.1. "PMID 17089966. 
  7. ^ "Definition of hermaphroditus". Numen: The Latin Lexicon. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book IV: The story of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis.
  9. ^ "LacusCurtius • Diodorus Siculus — Book IV Chapters 1‑7". penelope.uchicago.edu. 
  10. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 1st edn, s.v. hermaphrodite, n. and adj.; "Online Etymology Dictionary". Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2012. 
  11. ^ "Hermaphrodite". quod.lib.umich.edu. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Barrows, Edward M. (2001). Animal behavior desk reference: a dictionary of animal behavior, ecology, and evolution (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, Fla: CRC Press. p. 317. "ISBN "0-8493-2005-4. "OCLC 299866547. 
  13. ^ Pandian, T. J. (2 September 2011). "Sex Determination in Fish". CRC Press. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017 – via Google Books. 
  14. ^ Warner, Robert R (June 1988). "Sex change and the size-advantage model". Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 3 (6): 133–136. "doi:10.1016/0169-5347(88)90176-0. "PMID 21227182. 
  15. ^ Ghiselin, Michael T. (1969). "The evolution of hermaphroditism among animals". Quarterly Review of Biology. 44 (2): 189–208. "doi:10.1086/406066. "PMID 4901396. 
  16. ^ Rodgers, E.W.; Early, R.L.; Grober, M.S. (2007). "Social status determines sexual phenotype in the bi-directional sex changing bluebanded goby Lythrypnus dalli". J Fish Biol. 70: 1660–1668. "doi:10.1111/j.1095-8649.2007.01427.x. 
  17. ^ Barrière A, Félix MA (July 2005). "High local genetic diversity and low outcrossing rate in Caenorhabditis elegans natural populations". Curr. Biol. 15 (13): 1176–84. "doi:10.1016/j.cub.2005.06.022. "PMID 16005289. 
  18. ^ Sakakura, Y., Soyano, K., Noakes, D.L.G. & Hagiwara, A. (2006). Gonadal morphology in the self-fertilizing mangrove killifish, Kryptolebias marmoratus. Ichthyological Research, Vol. 53, pp. 427-430
  19. ^ "The Painful Realities of Hyena Sex". Archived from the original on 2012-11-19. 
  20. ^ "Hyena Graphic". EurekAlert!. Archived from the original on 2011-03-10. 
  21. ^ "Hermaphrodite Hyenas?". Archived from the original on 2010-11-23. 
  22. ^ Schultheiss, Herrmann & Jonas 2006, p. 358.
  23. ^ "Davis, Georgiann (2011). McGann, PJ; Hutson, David J., eds. "DSD is a Perfectly Fine Term": Reasserting Medical Authority through a Shift in Intersex Terminology". Sociology of Diagnosis (Advances in Medical Sociology). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. pp. 155–182. 
  24. ^ "Holmes, Morgan (2011). "The Intersex Enchiridion: Naming and Knowledge in the Clinic". Somatechnics. 1 (2): 87–114. "doi:10.3366/soma.2011.0026. 
  25. ^ "Androgen Insensitivity Support Syndrome Support Group Australia; "Intersex Trust Aotearoa New Zealand; "Organisation Intersex International Australia; Black, Eve; Bond, Kylie; "Briffa, Tony; "Carpenter, Morgan; Cody, Candice; David, Alex; Driver, Betsy; Hannaford, Carolyn; Harlow, Eileen; "Hart, Bonnie; "Hart, Phoebe; Leckey, Delia; Lum, Steph; "Mitchell, Mani Bruce; Nyhuis, Elise; O'Callaghan, Bronwyn; Perrin, Sandra; Smith, Cody; Williams, Trace; Yang, Imogen; Yovanovic, Georgie (March 2017), Darlington Statement, archived from the original on 2017-03-22, retrieved March 21, 2017 
  26. ^ "UN Committee against Torture; "UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; "UN Committee on the Rights of People with Disabilities; UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; "Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; Dubravka Šimonoviæ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Violence against Children; "African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights; "Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights; "Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (October 24, 2016), "Intersex Awareness Day – Wednesday 26 October. End violence and harmful medical practices on intersex children and adults, UN and regional experts urge", "Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, archived from the original on November 21, 2016 
  27. ^ "Council of Europe; "Commissioner for Human Rights (April 2015), Human rights and intersex people, Issue Paper, archived from the original on 2016-01-06 
  28. ^ Dreger, Alice D.; Chase, Cheryl; Sousa, Aron; Gruppuso, Phillip A.; Frader, Joel (18 August 2005). ""Changing the Nomenclature/Taxonomy for Intersex: A Scientific and Clinical Rationale."" (PDF). Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology and Metabolism. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  29. ^ Margarit, E.; Coll, M. D.; Oliva, R.; Gómez, D.; Soler, A.; Ballesta, F. (2000). "SRY gene transferred to the long arm of the X chromosome in a Y-positive XX true hermaphrodite". American Journal of Medical Genetics. 90 (1): 25–28. "doi:10.1002/(SICI)1096-8628(20000103)90:1<25::AID-AJMG5>3.0.CO;2-5. "PMID 10602113. 
  30. ^ "Leyner, Mark; Goldberg M.D., Billy (2005). Why Do Men Have Nipples?: Hundreds of Questions You'd Only Ask a Doctor After Your Third Martini. New York: Three Rivers Press. "ISBN "1-4000-8231-5. "OCLC 57722472. 
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  32. ^ Newton, L. 1931 A Handbook of the British Seaweeds. British Museum, London p.225

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