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Hermaphrodite Meaning

An organism that produces both eggs and sperm is known as a hermaphrodite (cosexual). It can be sequential, in which case one sex is produced before the other, or simultaneously, in which case both eggs and sperm are produced at the same time (both sexes at the same time). An intersex or mixture of male and female genetics and/or phenotype organism is referred to as a hermaphrodite.

What is Hermaphrodite?

Hermaphrodites, the mythical Greek offspring of Hermes and Aphrodite, are from where the name "hermaphrodite" originates. Hermes is a symbol of strong, masculine identity. Aphrodite is a symbol of feminine beauty.

There are two sorts of hermaphrodites: true and false. A real hermaphrodite has a genetic deficiency (issues with the X or Y chromosome) in any combination of the following: XXX, XXY, X0, X+ Y. SYR loci are connected to the partial Y in true hermaphrodites with XX + part Y. (carries TDF which drives maleness). There are testicular and ovarian tissues in it (dysfunctional).

The chromosome structure of the fake hermaphrodite is usually XX or XY. It has a mutation in gene loci that code for enzymes involved in the manufacture of androgen or oestrogen (get less than normal levels). Because differentiating ducts/external genitalia are hormone-driven (have partials/incomplete characteristics), this causes issues.

Hermaphrodite Animals

The animals that have the characteristics to develop both male and female gametes in their body are known as hermaphrodite animals. These hermaphrodite animals have some features and organs that help to adapt to this condition.

Worms, bryozoans (moss creatures), trematodes (flukes), snails, slugs, and barnacles are examples of hermaphrodite animals examples. Hermaphrodites include animals mostly in the phylum Platyhelminthes, including liver fluke and blood fluke. All leeches are hermaphrodites, meaning they can be either protandrous or cosexual. Most sponges are hermaphrodites who go through phases of being one sex and then the other. Earthworms, flatworms, mollusks, and fish(rarely) are all examples of each member who can act as both a man and a woman.

A free martin is a fake hermaphrodite found only in cattle. When twins are born, one male and one female, and the placentas fuse together (can occur early or late).


  • Hermaphrodites make up the majority of snails. Apple snails and periwinkle snails are the only freshwaters and marine species that are exempt.

  • Snails, in addition to being hermaphroditic, are also early bloomers, reaching sexual maturity by the age of a year.

  • The Achatina fulica, or gigantic African land snail, is the world's largest snail species, capable of depositing up to 500 eggs at a time. They mate with partners most of the time as hermaphrodites, although they can also self-fertilise in rare cases.

A Hermaphrodite animal- Snail

Image: A Hermaphrodite animal- Snail


  • Worms are another class of invertebrates that contribute to the spread of hermaphroditism.

  • Some worms can fertilise themselves, but most worms require a mate in order to breed.

  • Consider the mating behaviour of an earthworm. Earthworms connect together with their heads facing opposite ways during fertilisation and transmit sperm and eggs between them into a united cocoon.

  • When an earthworm emits a pheromone that signals it's ready to reproduce, it can happen above or below the soil. Caenorhabditis elegans is a free-living organism and both sex in a single body.


  • Some frog species, such as the African tree frog (Xenopus laevis), are male in their juvenile stages before becoming female as adults.

  • Frogs' sex is fast changing due to commercial pesticides based on atrazine.

Banana Slugs

  • This mollusc tends to pair with a partner, but if one isn't available, it can self-fertilise.

  • For how they mate, being a hermaphrodite is a crucial trait of the banana slug. Banana slugs become caught together during the mating process, and because their male reproductive organs are so enormous, the organ is chewed off to separate the organs.

  • This causes no harm to the slug, and it can still mate with other slugs because it still has its female reproductive apparatus.


  • Hamlet is a fish that does not reproduce like other fishes. It changes its sex after finding its mate.

  • If a mate is male then it changes itself to female and if a mate is female then changes to male and reproduces.


  • The jellyfish are among the most well-known hermaphroditic animals on the planet.

  • They generally produce a male reproduction organ in their immature stages and then transition to a female reproductive organ as they mature.


The hermaphrodites are a type of sexual reproduction. It carries both genders and helps in self-fertilisation. Hermaphrodites that may mate with males or self-fertilise. This condition occurs in both plants and animals. They have no genetic variation. Slugs, worms, and plants exhibit hermaphroditic traits more frequently and pronouncedly than do people.

The above article provides all the information about examples of them in which this process occurs. The examples are helpful to identify the organism that has this type of characteristics.

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FAQs on Hermaphrodite

1. Why don't all organisms have hermaphroditic characteristics?

Hermaphrodite animals do inbreeding which means gametes are from the same individuals. Inbreeding is expensive so animals do not want to waste their energy developing such features that help in breeding. 

Male and female hormonal and physiological systems are antagonistic. The animals have different sex hormones for both males and females that help in the development of sexual characteristics. So animals do not do hermaphroditism. It occurs in animals but in some limited individuals. 

Each sex function has a high fixed cost. The sex organs forms in sexual reproduction have their own role.

2. What is the advantage of hermaphrodite animals? 

The hermaphrodite animals are formed by the process of hermaphroditism. Hermaphroditism has the advantage of making every member of the same species a prospective mate, so finding a partner of the opposite sex isn't required for reproduction. There is no loss of energy to produce some features and extraordinary structure to do reproduction. There is no travelling cost for gametes because both are present in the same body and have to pass only a short distance. These animals do not waste their energy and time in finding the opposite sex.

3. Is it possible to find human hermaphrodites?

Hermaphrodites have both male and female characteristics, which both emerge at the appropriate times. Intersex is the accurate name because neither sex's reproductive organs have fully developed in humans. Therefore, there are no hermaphrodite people. Humans exhibit pseudohermaphroditism, a condition in which a person possesses both male and female external genitalia at the same time. In real hermaphrodites, the male develops when the organism requires a male gamete, and it switches its gender when it requires a female gamete, but this does not happen in humans.

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