Weichert, Charles K. College of Arts and Sciences, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Chang, M. C. Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.
Harper, Michael J. K. Reproductive Biology Division, Center for Research, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas-Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas.
Hunter, R. H. F. School of Agriculture, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:May 2018
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The anatomical structures concerned with the production of sex cells (gametes) and perpetuation of the species. The reproductive system consists of various body organs and glands that ensure the production of new individuals (that is, reproduction). In vertebrates, the reproductive function constitutes the only physiological function that necessitates the existence of two morphologically different kinds of individuals in each animal species—the males and the females (sexual dimorphism). The purpose of the reproductive function is fertilization, that is, the fusion of a male sex cell and a female sex cell produced by two distinct individuals. In each sex, the reproductive system comprises a sex gland or gonad, which produces sex cells (Fig. 1), or gametes, and ducts, which permit the passage of the gametes. In some animals, such as mammals, copulatory organs permit the male germ cells to be introduced into the female ducts, and fertilization is internal; however, in many vertebrates, such as anuran amphibians and many fishes, no copulatory organ exists, and fertilization is external. See also: Animal reproduction; Copulatory organ; Fertilization (animal); Gametogenesis; Gland; Reproductive behavior; Reproductive system disorders; Sexual dimorphism
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