Reproductive System - Male Overview
Male Anatomy: The Reproductive Organs
Get an overview of the male sexual anatomy and male reproductive system.
By Connie Brichford
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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For reproduction to occur, the female sex cell, called the egg, must be fertilized by a male sex cell, called the sperm. Not only are the sex cells different, but the organs that produce and store them are different as well.
Male Sexual Anatomy
The organs and glands that make up the male sexual anatomy include:
- Testicles— After puberty, a man’s testicles, located at the base of the penis, produce male sex cells called sperm. Also starting at puberty, testicles produce testosterone, the male sex hormone. A man’s sperm production, once started, continues throughout his life; sexually mature males produce millions of sperm cells each day. The testicles are located below the penis, outside the body, where the appropriate temperature to make sperm may be maintained as it is several degrees too hot for sperm to be viable (able to fertilize eggs) inside the body.
- Scrotum— The testicles are covered by a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The scrotum and the muscles surrounding it can pull the testicles toward the body when they are too cold, and relax away from the body when the testicles are too warm. The scrotum also holds theepididymis.
- Epididymis and vas deferens— The epididymis stores the sperm after the testicles produce them, and the vas deferens transports the sperm from the epididymis to theurethra.
- Urethra— The urethra is a duct, or tube, that transports fluids from the inside of the body to the outside. In both men and women, the urethra is connected to the bladder and is used to pass urine out of the body. In males, however, the urethra is also connected to the “accessory glands,” which produce semen, and to the vas deferens, the duct that brings the sperm from the epididymus.
- Penis— The penis is perhaps the most visible part of the male sexual anatomy. It is made up of two parts, the shaft and the head (also called the glans.) The shaft houses thecorpora cavernosa(two flexible cylinders comprised of erectile tissue that run the length of the penis and support erections), and thecorpus spongiosum(erectile tissue surrounding the urethra). In its reproductive capacity, the urethral opening at the tip of the penis delivers sperm into the vagina. Urine also flows out of the body through the urethral opening.
- Accessory glands— There are several glands that work together to produce semen, or seminal fluid. Sperm can live inside the female reproductive system for up to 48 hours, and seminal fluid helps the sperm move around and stay nourished. Theseminal vesicleproduces a fluid that provides energy to the sperm as they seek out the female sex cell, or the egg. Theprostate glandmakes a different fluid that helps the sperm move more quickly through the female reproductive system. Another set of glands, calledbulbourethralorCowper's glands, makes a small quantity of fluid that helps protect the sperm on its way through the urethra by neutralizing any leftover traces of acidic urine.
Video: Male Reproductive System: Functions, Organs and Anatomy
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