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Difference Between Sperm and Ovum

Last updated date: 29th Feb 2024
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Exploring the Roles of Sperm and Ovum in Reproduction

To explain sperm and ovum: The miracle of life begins with the union of two fundamental components: sperm and ovum. Sperm, the microscopic cells produced by males, and ovum, the larger reproductive cells produced by females, play vital roles in the process of reproduction. Through a remarkable journey, sperm navigate through complex environments to reach the waiting ovum, where the fusion of genetic material occurs. This fusion of sperm and ovum sets in motion the development of a new individual, with a unique combination of traits inherited from both parents. 

In this article, we will delve into the intriguing roles of what is sperm and ovum in reproduction, exploring their fascinating adaptations and the remarkable process of fertilisation.

What is Sperm and Ovum?

Definition of Sperm

Sperm, also known as spermatozoa, are specialised  male reproductive cells responsible for fertilizing the ovum during sexual reproduction. These microscopic cells are produced in the testes through a process called spermatogenesis. Structurally, sperm consist of a head, a midpiece, and a tail. The head contains genetic material in the form of chromosomes, while the midpiece is packed with mitochondria that provide energy for motility. The long tail, or flagellum, enables sperm to swim towards the ovum for fertilisation. Sperm are equipped with unique adaptations that allow them to survive in the female reproductive tract and navigate towards the ovum, marking the beginning of new life.

Definition of Ovum

The ovum, also referred to as an egg or oocyte, is the female reproductive cell involved in sexual reproduction. Ova are larger than sperm and are produced in the ovaries through a process called oogenesis. Each ovum contains genetic material in the form of chromosomes, which are necessary for the development of an embryo. Ova are typically released from the ovary during ovulation and travel through the fallopian tubes, where they can be fertilised  by sperm. If fertilisation occurs, the ovum undergoes further development and implantation in the uterus, leading to the formation of a fetus.

Characteristics of Sperm and Ovum

Characteristics of Sperm and ovum that are unique reproductive cells, with sperm being small, highly mobile, and carrying genetic material from the male, while ovum are larger, non-motile, and containing genetic material from the female.:


Structure: Sperm are microscopic cells consisting of a head, midpiece, and tail. The head contains genetic material, the midpiece contains mitochondria for energy production, and the tail allows for motility.

Mobility: Sperm are highly motile, using their tail to swim towards the ovum through various reproductive fluids.

Production: Sperm are produced in large quantities through spermatogenesis in the testes.

Lifespan: Sperm have a relatively short lifespan, typically surviving for a few days within the female reproductive tract.

Size: Sperm are much smaller in size compared to the ovum, making them highly specialised  for efficient movement and fertilisation.


Structure: Ova are larger cells with a rounded shape, containing genetic material within the nucleus.

Immobility: Unlike sperm, ova are immobile and do not have the ability to actively move towards the sperm.

Production: Ova are produced in limited numbers through oogenesis in the ovaries, with one mature ovum typically released during each menstrual cycle.

Lifespan: The ovum has a relatively short lifespan of about 24-48 hours and must be fertilised  within this time frame for successful conception.

Size: Ova are significantly larger than sperm, visible to the naked eye, and contain abundant nutrients to support early embryonic development.

Differences Between Sperm and Ovum

Here we will discuss Sperm and Ovum difference in different categories:



Turgor Pressure

Wall Pressure 


Microscopic, head contains genetic material

Larger, contains genetic material


Highly motile, propelled by a tail

Immobile, unable to actively move


Produced in large quantities through spermatogenesis

Produced in limited numbers through oogenesis


Relatively short lifespan, survive for a few days

Relatively short lifespan, survive for 24-48 hours


Smaller in size

Larger, visible to the naked eye


Fertilizes the ovum

Contains the genetic material for fertilisation


Sperm and ovum are vital components of sexual reproduction in organisms. Sperm, produced in the testes, are microscopic cells equipped with a head, midpiece, and tail, enabling them to swim towards the ovum. They carry genetic material and play the crucial role of fertilizing the ovum. Ova, on the other hand, are larger cells produced in the ovaries and contain genetic material within their nucleus. They are immobile and must be fertilised  by sperm for conception to occur. Understanding the characteristics and functions of sperm and ovum sheds light on the fascinating process of sexual reproduction and the creation of new life.

FAQs on Difference Between Sperm and Ovum

1. What is the primary function of sperm in reproduction?

The main function of sperm is to fertilize the ovum during sexual reproduction. Sperm cells, produced in the testes, are highly motile and equipped with genetic material. They travel through the female reproductive tract to reach the ovum, where one sperm can penetrate and fuse with the ovum, resulting in fertilisation.

2. How are sperm different from ovum in terms of size?

Sperm cells are small in size, microscopic and not visible to the naked eye. In contrast, the ovum is relatively large and visible to the naked eye. The larger size of the ovum is due to the abundant nutrients it contains to support early embryonic development after fertilisation.

3. Are sperm and ovum produced continuously throughout an individual's life?

In males, sperm production begins during puberty and continues throughout their adult life. It is a continuous process that produces millions of sperm daily. In females, the ovum production starts before birth, but only a limited number of ova mature and are released during the reproductive years. Ovulation occurs once a month, releasing one ovum from the ovaries.

4. Can the ovum be fertilised  by multiple sperm?

No, the ovum can only be fertilised  by a single sperm. Once a sperm penetrates the ovum and fuses with it, a protective barrier forms around the ovum, preventing the entry of additional sperm. This mechanism ensures that the genetic material from only one sperm combines with the genetic material of the ovum to form a complete set of chromosomes for the embryo.

5. How long can sperm and ovum survive outside the body?

Sperm cells can survive for a limited time outside the body, typically a few hours to a few days, depending on the conditions. In contrast, the ovum has a relatively short lifespan of around 24-48 hours after ovulation. For successful fertilisation, the sperm must reach the ovum within this time frame in the female reproductive tract.