Hermaphroditism

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Introduction

The process of the formation of offspring from the parents is called reproduction. The produced offspring are similar to the parent. Reproduction can happen in two ways, they can reproduce sexually as well as asexually. If the reproduction takes place due to a single parent it is called asexual reproduction, and if a reproduction takes place by two parents of different sexes it is called sexual reproduction.


Hermaphrodite Meaning

The condition of having both male and female reproductive organs in the same parent is called hermaphroditism. It is also called intersex. It is grouped under other conditions such as disorder of sex development.

According to the hermaphrodite definition, there are four different types of hermaphroditism:

1. 46, XX Hermaphroditism: An individual who has this condition has two XX chromosome along with the ovaries, they also contain external genitalia that appears in the males. This condition can be caused due to the exposure of the fetus to the male hormones inside the womb, where the fusion of labia and clitoris takes place that resembles a penis. But the female sexual organs such as the uterus and fallopian tube have a normal structure.

2. 46, XY Hermaphroditism: An individual who has this condition has one X and one Y chromosome, and it is as usual as found in males. But the external genitalia resembles the females or not completely formed. The internal sexualities are found to be absent or normal or incomplete. It occurs due to the imbalance of male and female hormones. It can also be caused due to abnormal functioning of the testes or reduced ability of production of testosterone or difficulty found in the usage of produced testosterone. 

3. True Gonadal Hermaphroditism: An individual who has this condition includes both ovarian and testicular tissue that is found either in the same gonad or one in the testis and one in the ovary. It is also called real hermaphrodite or true hermaphroditism. Some of the individuals that are affected by this condition include XX chromosomes and some have XY chromosomes whereas others have a combination of both the chromosomes. Some of the studies done on animals have suggested a link to agricultural pesticides and it has not been found in the case of humans.

4. Complex Hermaphroditism: It includes other sexual disorders beyond the simple ones such as 46, XX and 46, XY.

  • 45, XO

  • 47, XXY

  • 47, XXX

In this condition, the individuals do not have any difference in internal or external genitalia. But they have abnormal levels of sex hormones and incomplete sexual development.


Hermaphroditism in Humans

True hermaphroditism in humans does not exist, instead, we can find pseudohermaphroditism. It is the condition in which individuals have both male and female external genitalia. The female embryos are exposed to high levels of male hormones such as androgens that develop the female internal organs and male external genitalia. 


Protogynous

This condition is found to be different in both plants and animals, in plants the female organs develop and become mature before the males this avoids the process of self-pollination. In the case of animals, the individuals born are females but at some point in their life span, they change their sex to females. 

Based on the hermaphrodite genitalia we can have four different types of hermaphroditism. The symptoms include delay or abnormal puberty changes, ambiguous genitalia, labial fusion, etc. As it is a complex issue finding an ideal treatment is difficult. Based on the external genitalia the gender was assigned and the treatment was given whereas now complexity of the gender has been found and the treatment is becoming more individualized.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Explain the Hermaphrodite Meaning and Give Examples.

Ans: Hermaphrodites definition is as follows, individuals that have both male and female organs in their body called hermaphrodites. 

Example: 

In animals: Earthworm, pulmonate snails

In plants: Cannabis sativa, pea plants

2. What is Meant By Intersex? What Hermaphrodite Type is Considered a Rare Condition?

Ans: Intersex is a condition where individuals have one of the several variations that include chromosomes, sex hormones, genitalia, or gonads. A true hermaphrodite is the rarest condition found in the disorders of sexual differentiation. It is found in only 5% of all cases. In this case, the gonads consist of both gonads and testicular differentiation that can be found combined or in the same as ovotestis.