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Sperm Cell: Definition & Function

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  • 0:00 The Chicken or the Egg?
  • 0:29 What Is a Sperm Cell?
  • 1:15 What Is the Function of Sperm?
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ebony Potts

Ebony has taught middle and High School Physical Science ,Life Science & Biology, been an Assistant Principal, and has a Doctorate Degree in Educational Administration.

In this lesson, you will learn the definition of a sperm cell, as well as its primary function. You will also learn how the sperm cell is linked to reproduction and why it is so important for the survival of a species.

The Chicken or The Egg?

One of the most common farm animals are chickens. If you ever found yourself in a chicken coop, it is safe to say you would most likely stumble upon a few chickens as well as their eggs. Do you know which one came first? Was it the chicken, or the egg? Nobody knows, however, somewhere after the egg, but before the chicken, there is a sperm cell. Sperm cells are a part of the process necessary for eggs to develop into chickens in the first place.

What is a Sperm Cell?

Sperm cell
(The sperm is the small white cell to the left.)

A sperm cell is the male sex cell. All animals (and many other types of organisms) produce what are called sex cells. Sex cells are the cells, that, when combined, produce a completely new organism. For example, your mother and every other human female carry egg cells (female sex cells) in their ovaries. Your father and every other human male carry sperm cells, or male sex cells, in their testes. When an egg cell and a sperm cell unite, the two combine to form an embryo or an unborn, developing organism. At this point, the embryo is able to develop into a fully formed offspring of its parents. When the cells combine in a chicken, a chick is the result. When the cells combined in your mother's body, you were the result.

What is the Function of Sperm?

A sperm cell consists of two parts, the head and the tail. The overall structure of the sperm makes it perfectly designed to carry out its function. The primary function of the sperm is to pass on the necessary biological information required to produce a new organism. In humans and most living things, the data that makes an organism what it is is contained in a tiny molecule called DNA. DNA is basically a recipe book used to make you, well, you. All of your physical characteristics are determined by the information contained in your DNA. The DNA, or biological information the sperm needs to pass on, is contained in its head. The tail of the sperm helps give it the momentum it needs to reach the egg cell, so it is able to create the embryo in the first place. So, just how can the male make sure that the information that makes him who he is, gets passed on to his children or offspring? Why, with sperm of course!

Remember, we said that DNA is like a recipe book that contains all of the information that makes an organism who and what it is. Half of the biological information contained in the DNA is packaged in each of the male's sperm cells.

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