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Male reproductive cell. In mammals, sperm are produced in the testes and travel through the reproductive system. At fertilization, one sperm of the roughly 300 million in an average ejaculation (seesemen) fertilizes an egg (seeovary) to produce an offspring. At puberty, immature cells (spermatogonia) begin a maturation process (spermatogenesis). A mature human sperm has a flat, almond-shaped head, with a cap (acrosome) containing chemicals that help it penetrate an ovum. It is essentially a cell nucleus, with 23 chromosomes (including either the X or Y that determines the child's sex). A flagellum propels the sperm, which may live in a woman's reproductive tract for two to three days after sexual intercourse, to the egg. Sperm may be frozen and stored for artificial insemination.
Variants of SPERM
sperm or spermatozoon
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sperm, visit Britannica.com.