What is a hermaphrodite?

What Does Hermaphrodite Mean

We explain what a hermaphrodite is when it comes to animals, plants or people. Also, differences with intersex.

Hermaphroditic species can reproduce more easily.

What is a hermaphrodite?

Hermaphroditism is the biological condition of having both male and female reproductive organs at the same time. Therefore, those who possess it are called hermaphrodites.

It is a fairly common condition in nature , both in plants and animals of sexual reproduction , although in the case of vertebrates (including humans ) it is usually rare and dysfunctional. In most cases of functional hermaphroditism in nature, that is, when it is not part of any congenital defect, individuals are capable of generating both female and male gametes. However, on rare occasions they are capable of self-fertilization. That is, they alternate in the role of fertilizer (male) and fertilized (female) , depending on the environmental conditions in which they are.

In general terms, the presence of reproductive organs of both sexes is an indicator that it is often difficult for a species to find partners to reproduce, and in this way it prevents two individuals of the same sex from meeting. In contrast, in most vertebrates hermaphroditism exists only as a congenital condition: a malfunction in the replication of the genome during crucial stages of the individual's development. Although you are born with both sexes, one is usually more defined than the other. In addition, it usually presents phenotypic and reproductive complications (sterility). Finally, the term hermaphrodite comes from the ancient Greek hermaphroditos , the name of a mythological character son of the gods Hermes and Aphrodite, whose beauty madly conquered the naiad Salmacis, who tried unsuccessfully to conquer it. Frustrated by his refusals, the muse chose to plead with the gods to merge their bodies, becoming a single being, endowed with both sexes.

It can help you: Sexuality

Hermaphroditic animals

Sequential hermaphroditism allows the snook to change sex.

Hermaphroditism in animals is more common among invertebrate and more primitive species : starfish, snails, earthworms, barnacles, bryozoans , and some other similar species, generally parasitic or immobile. It is also possible to find species of fish and amphibians endowed with sequential hermaphroditism , which are born of one sex and can change towards the other if the conditions are right, for example, during a shortage of males or females, such as snook or cabrilla .

Hermaphroditic people

As in most vertebrates, hermaphroditism is a congenital defect in humans . That is, it is a condition that occurs during embryonic formation and that can appear in different proportions. The hermaphroditic person generally exhibits physical characteristics of both sexes, but has the reproductive organs of one more defined than those of the other. Thus, a person with this condition can have a vagina and vulva, but not a uterus; or possessing an intermediate erectile organ between clitoris and penis, or possessing both ovaries and developed testes (true hermaphroditism). Most of them, however, are pseudohermaphroditisms, which have more recently been collected under the term “intersex”. Human hermaphroditism is rare, and depending on the case, it may have some type of surgical and / or hormonal treatment. But except for reproductive life, most people with this condition can lead a perfectly normal , productive life and integrated into society in all its aspects, including the romantic and erotic.

Hermaphroditic plants

Although many angiosperms are hermaphrodites, they generally cannot self-fertilize.

The most common case of hermaphroditism in nature is that of sexually reproducing plants (angiosperms). Both male (stamens) and female (pistils) reproductive organelles are found in its flowers , capable of producing their respective gametes, but not of self-fertilization. For that reason, plants require cross pollination, making both males and females at the same time. Only in very specific cases is self-fertilization possible.

Hermaphroditism and intersex

The traditional term for this condition, the same one used when talking about animals and plants, is "hermaphrodite", but when applied to human beings, the term "intersex" has recently been preferred, not only to safeguard human dignity , but because it is much more accurate. In fact, "hermaphrodite" implies the presence of both sexes completely simultaneously, which is rather rare or impossible. What is possible is intersexuality: the presence of sexual traits and only some sexual organs of both sexes, thus reaching an intermediate condition. Hence, "intersex" is preferred, to group the different possibilities that this genetic phenomenon causes. More in: Intersexual

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