Follicle & Corpus Luteum: Location within the Ovary

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

The female reproductive system is quite fascinating. This lesson will explore the ovary and explain how to identify the follicle and the corpus luteum on diagrams.

The Ovary

How much do you know about ovaries? Sure, the penis and vagina are neat reproductive structures, but they've got nothing on the ovary, which is the part of a female's reproductive system where eggs are made.

Note the location of the ovaries

In vertebrates (or animals with backbones), the ovaries typically come in pairs. In humans, they are about four centimeters in length and are found on either side of the uterus. Before we delve into the parts of the ovary, check out these ovary facts:

  • The name ovary comes from the Latin word for egg (or ovum).
  • The ovaries not only produce eggs, they also release hormones.
  • If a woman gets too stressed out, her ovaries may stop releasing eggs.
  • In humans, the ovaries start making eggs in the female fetus 9 weeks after conception.
  • Human females are born with all of their eggs (around 1 million).
  • The older you are, the more likely your ovaries will release two eggs at once (which could result in twins).

Follicle and Corpus Luteum

Now you know a little more about the amazing ovary, let's check out some specific structures within this organ. The ovary contains follicles, which are sacs filled with fluid that house eggs. During each cycle, one follicle will release a mature egg, and the follicles that don't release eggs will dissolve. When the follicle releases the egg, ovulation has occurred. Once released, the egg will travel through the fallopian tubes and, if fertilized, will implant in the uterus.

After the egg is released, the follicle becomes a corpus luteum, which produces hormones. The name corpus luteum translates into yellow body in Latin, which corresponds with its yellow color.

If sperm fertilizes the egg, the corpus luteum will keep making hormones, It reaches its peak size after about ten weeks, and then it will shrivel up after 16-20 weeks. If fertilization does not take place, it shrivels and coils up.

Identifying the Follicles and the Corpus Luteum

Now that you're familiar with the ovary, follicles and corpus luteum, let's work on identifying those structures on models and diagrams, staring with this diagram showing a cross section of an ovary.

Cross section of an ovary
cross section

While our focus is the follicles and corpus luteum, take a moment to check out the outer covering of connective tissue (1), the soft tissue (2 and 3) and the blood vessels that supply blood to the system (4). Now check out the small circles (5), which are immature follicles, and then observe how they get larger in 6, 7 and 8. You can even see the egg inside of these follicles as a tiny circle. The follicle in 9 is nearly mature and in 9' the egg has left the follicle. Finally, the corpus luteum is depicted in 10.

Now let's explore another image.

Ovary follicles and corpus luteum
ovary image 3

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