Gonads: Definition & Function

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  • 0:01 What Are the Gonads?
  • 0:48 All About the Ovaries
  • 1:59 All About The Testes
  • 2:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Learn what the gonads are and examine their functions. We will look into both the male and female gonads. You can take the quiz afterwards to test your understanding of these organs.

What Are the Gonads?

This is a term that you may have heard ever since you were younger. Kids will often laugh whenever this term is used because of how the term sounds. What they don't realize is that the word they are laughing at is the very reason why they were even born!

Let's go ahead and define this term. The gonads are the reproductive organs for both males and females. Males have testicles, or testes, as their gonads, and females have ovaries as their gonads. Even though the gonads don't look the same in males and females, they actually serve identical functions. The function of the gonads is to produce gametes for reproduction and secrete sex hormones. The gametes and sex hormones do differ, and we'll get into that right now. Ladies first!

All About the Ovaries

A female has an ovary on each side of the uterus. These are about the size of an almond. The ovaries have the responsibility of producing and releasing an egg, or ovum. The process the ovaries use to produce the ovum is known as oogenesis, and this takes place before the female is even born.

This process happens multiple times so that she is born with all the ova that she will need later in life. Once a female reaches puberty, then the ovaries will release an ovum once a month with the anticipation of fertilization. The release of the ovum is known as ovulation. The ovaries will usually alternate which one will ovulate each month so that only one ovum is ready to be fertilized at a time. This is how the ovary functions as an organ.

The ovaries also function as a gland since they release estrogen, the female hormone that causes the development of feminine characteristics, such as breasts and a more curvy shape. After puberty, the ovaries will release both estrogen and progesterone under the control of a hormone released from the hypothalamus in the brain. This monthly release of hormones is done to help prepare and thicken the uterus for possible implantation of a fertilized ovum.

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