Hermaphroditismthe condition of having both male and female reproductive organs. Hermaphroditic plants —most flowering plants, or angiosperms —are called monoecious, or bisexual. Hermaphroditic animals—mostly invertebrates such as wormsbryozoans moss animalstrematodes flukessnailsslugsand barnacles —are usually parasitic, slow-moving, or permanently attached to another animal or plant.
Reproduction is the process by which organisms make more organisms like themselves. But even though the reproductive system is essential to keeping a species alive, unlike other body systems, it's not essential to keeping an individual alive. In the human reproductive process, two kinds of sex cells, or gametes pronounced: GAH-meetzare involved.
As a clinical geneticist, Paul James is accustomed to discussing some of the most delicate issues with his patients. But in earlyhe found himself having a particularly awkward conversation about sex. A year-old pregnant woman had visited his clinic at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in Australia to hear the results of an amniocentesis test to screen her baby's chromosomes for abnormalities.
For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY. Some people live and die with intersex anatomy without anyone including themselves ever knowing.
Intersex is a group of conditions where there is a discrepancy between the external genitals and the internal genitals the testes and ovaries. The older term for this condition is hermaphroditism. Although the older terms are still included in this article for reference, they have been replaced by most experts, patients and families.
Humans are born with 46 chromosomes in 23 pairs. Most women are 46XX and most men are 46XY. Research suggests, however, that in a few births per thousand some individuals will be born with a single sex chromosome 45X or 45Y sex monosomies and some with three or more sex chromosomes 47XXX, 47XYY or 47XXY, etc.
WHEN Cody was born intersex, her parents and doctors made a decision. She still wonders if it was the right one. A decade ago, when a baby was born with both male and female physical characteristics, doctors and parents faced a difficult choice.
How small does a penis have to be before it counts as intersex? Below we provide a summary of statistics drawn from an article by Brown University researcher Anne Fausto-Sterling. Note that the frequency of some of these conditions, such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, differs for different populations.
Reproduction of non-mammalian animals catches the attention of some people because they usually are unique processes. Snails have a striking appearance, but their reproductive habits are also uncommon. One of the keys to snail survival through time are the characteristics of their reproduction process.
Hermaphroditism is also found in some fish species and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates. Most plants are also hermaphrodites. Historically, the term hermaphrodite has also been used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochoristic species, especially human beings. The word intersex has come into preferred usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing,   as well as "scientifically specious and clinically problematic.