Hermaphrodite animals are those animals that have both female and male reproductive organs. They are living beings that can produce both female and male gametes (cells). It’s a characteristic that occurs in fish and many invertebrate animals, such as mollusks and annelids.
The main distinction – as we said before – is that they have integrated male and female sexual organs. Due to this condition, they can produce both gender cells according to their needs; for example, if they find a male individual, the other will use its female organs and vice versa.
Some hermaphrodite animals can fertilize themselves if they cannot find a specimen of their species at the time of reproduction. However, in most cases, they carry out cross-fertilization – with another individual – which generates new individuals with genetic variability.
Types Of Hermaphroditism
There are two types of hermaphroditism: sequential and simultaneous.
Sequential hermaphroditism: These are species born with one type of sex and modify it in adulthood. They can be protandric, when they are born male and become female – like shrimp – or protogynous, when they are born female and become male-like parrotfish.
Simultaneous hermaphroditism: Those species that have both sexes throughout their lives and can alternately become males or females depending on what the species needs at a given moment – such as the earthworm.
Sex in these animals is not determined by the X and Y chromosomes, as is the case with mammals, but by the organ’s maturity or the particular situation. Some examples of hermaphrodite animals are:
Snails are mollusk with a spiral shell – popularly called house – and two pairs of antennae – which they use for orientation and vision – They are one of the best-known hermaphrodites in existence; this means that they can produce both eggs and sperm, but they must mate between them to achieve fertilization.
Starfishes are one of the many species that live on the seabed of all the world’s oceans. Also, they have the particularity of being hermaphroditic. They usually have five arms – hence the name ‘star – and can reproduce both sexually and asexually.
Shrimps are also hermaphrodites – like other crustaceans – and in some cases, they are born male and, as they grow older or due to certain hierarchical circumstances, they become females. Females incubate the fertilized eggs, which remain attached to their swimming legs until they hatch.
This parasite not only causes disease in humans and animals but also is hermaphroditic. Inside it has a complete set of organs of each sex, i.e., it has testicles and ovaries. One of the main characteristics of tapeworms is that they can self-fertilize, although they can also procreate by crossing between two individuals.
The sexual organs of this species are one of the most complex in the animal kingdom, as opposed to its simple tube-shaped body. Flatworms are hermaphrodites; they reproduce internally and have copulatory organs.
The male inserts the cirrus or penis to deliver sperm into the female to produce eggs that travel to the uterus.