Sperm - Male Reproductive Cells

Sperm is the male reproductive cell in vertebrates. The term is derived from the Greek word "sperma" meaning "seed". Sperm were first observed under a microscope in 1677 by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who described them as little animals or animalcules.

The cellular biology of a sperm

Each human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. These undergo division in a process called mitosis. Mitosis produces daughter cells that contain 23 pairs of chromosomes, one one half of which is inherited from the mother and the other from the father.

For this purpose, the male and female reproductive cells or gametes need to undergo another form of cell division called meiosis where the cell is divided into cell generated contains only 23 or half of the 46 chromosomes. The gamete cells are the eggs or ova found in females and the sperm found in males. The termed used to describe these cells containing only half the total chromosme number is "haploid".

Structure of the sperm

When the sperm has the usual single flagellum (or "tail"), it is called a spermatozoon and may be described as uniflagellate. The flagellum moves in a whip-like manner, propelling the the sperm towards the egg and uniflagellated sperm are also termed motile sperm.

A non-motile sperm that lacks a flagellum is called a spermatium. A sperm may contain an X chromosome and produce female off spring after fertilizing the ovum or it may have a Y chromosome, in which case fertilization will lead to the development of male offspring.

The sperm consists of a head that is about 5 µm by 3 µm in size and a flagellum of around 50 μm in length. There is little cytoplasm in sperm and the "head" is densely packed with DNA. Sperm is released from the male in a fluid called semen. Semen is alkaline and does not allow the sperm to be completely motile until they reach the female reproductive tract or the vagina which is acidic in pH.

The great sperm race part 1

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 23, 2023

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


Please use one of the following formats to cite this article in your essay, paper or report:

  • APA

    Mandal, Ananya. (2023, July 23). Sperm - Male Reproductive Cells. News-Medical. Retrieved on February 27, 2024 from https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Sperm.aspx.

  • MLA

    Mandal, Ananya. "Sperm - Male Reproductive Cells". News-Medical. 27 February 2024. <https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Sperm.aspx>.

  • Chicago

    Mandal, Ananya. "Sperm - Male Reproductive Cells". News-Medical. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Sperm.aspx. (accessed February 27, 2024).

  • Harvard

    Mandal, Ananya. 2023. Sperm - Male Reproductive Cells. News-Medical, viewed 27 February 2024, https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Sperm.aspx.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
Post a new comment
You might also like...
New research finds semen microbiome's impact on male fertility