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Summary Article: How does the male reproductive system work?
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Full answer

To understand the male reproductive system we need to look at:

  • its structure

  • how sperm are produced.

Components of the male reproductive system

  • testes These are held in the scrotal sac, or scrotum. Their function is to produce sperm. The sac is outside the body, giving the testes a temperature lower than body temperature, which is more suitable for producing sperm. The male sex hormone testosterone is produced in the testes.

  • epididymis This is a coiled tube next to the testes where the sperm are stored.

  • sperm duct A sperm duct leads from each of the testes to the urethra, where they open into it at a point just after it leaves the bladder.

  • prostrate gland and seminal vesicles These produce a fluid, which helps to keep the sperm alive. The fluid and sperm together is called semen.

  • urethra This is a tube that leads from the bladder down through the centre of the penis, through which urine and semen are expelled.

  • penis This is made of a tissue with many spaces in the blood vessels, which fill when the penis becomes erect. The head of the penis is very sensitive, with many sensory nerve endings present. It is protected by a foreskin, which is sometimes removed by circumcision for religious or medical reasons.

How sperm are produced The cells lining the tubes of the testes divide to produce the sperm cells. A sperm cell consists of a head, containing the nucleus, and a tail to help it to swim.

The sperm cells pass along the tubes of the testes towards the epididymis. At this time they are unable to swim, but by the time they reach the epididymis their tails are moving vigorously. Here they are stored.

Sperm cells can only live for a short time, and if they are not ejaculated they will die and be absorbed back into the testes or passed out with the urine.

During ejaculation, contractions of muscles force the sperm from the epididymis and out through the urethra.

In short

The male reproductive system is composed of:

  • testes

  • epididymis

  • sperm ducts

  • prostate and seminal vesicles

  • urethra

  • penis.

Sperm are produced in the testes and stored in the epididymis.

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sexual reproduction

human reproduction

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