MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Is it impossible for an organism to reproduce homosexually?

Date: Wed Feb 13 09:39:47 2002
Posted By: Aydin Orstan, Staff, Office of Food Additive Safety, Food and Drug Administration
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 1013227253.Gb

Dear Rashad,
Simply, a "male" is an organism that produces only sperm cells and 
a "female" is an organism that produces only eggs. Sperm cells have 
evolved to be donated; they are small and highly motile. Eggs are not 
meant to be donated. They have evolved to remain in a female's body until 
they are almost ready to hatch. In sexually reproducing organisms, the 
union of a sperm cell and an egg (fertilization) produces an embryo that 
develops into an offspring. A sperm cell alone cannot develop into an 
embryo. This has never been observed in any organism. But some female 
organisms (for example, certain microscopic animals called rotifers) can 
produce offspring from unfertilized eggs. That is called parthenogenesis.

One definition of homosexuality in my dictionary is sexual activity with a 
member of one's own sex. So, a homosexual pair could be two males or two 
females. But a male, homosexual or not, cannot produce an embryo, because 
by definition he has neither eggs, nor the necessary organs to receive 
semen from another male and to support an embryo. On the other hand, a 
female, although she may be able to produce offspring parthenogenetically, 
cannot donate to or receive from another female genetic material because 
by definition she (or her female partner) has neither sperm, nor the 
necessary organs to donate anything.

Therefore, in this sense, a more proper answer to your question is not 
that it is "impossible" to reproduce homosexually, but that a reproductive 
method that involves the exchange of genetic material between two 
individuals of the same sex has not evolved.

Aydin Írstan

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