Paper - Quantitative studies of the testicle 2

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Bascom KF. and Osterud HL. Quantitative studies of the testicle II. Pattern and total tubule length in the testicles of certain common mammals. (1925) Anat. Rec. 159-169.

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This historic 1925 paper by Bascom and Osterud compared the length of the male testis seminiferous tubule length in different species.

Modern Notes: testis

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Quantitative Studies Of The Testicle II. Pattern And Total Tubule Length In The Testicles Of Certain Common Mammals

K. F. Bascom And H. L. Osterud

Medical College of Virginia


Studies of the morphology of the testicle have been largely qualitative in character. Quantitative data, however, exist with reference to gross Weight, tubule diameter, tubule length, and cell counts. As examples may be mentioned the Work of Bouin and Ancel, Hatai, Jackson, Massaglia, Latimer, and Bessesen and Carlson, who have recorded gross Weights of the testicles of various animals. Siperstein, in addition to gross weights, also gives the diameter of the seminiferous tubules and diameter of nuclei of interstitial cells. Moore, iii a later paper on experimental cryptorchidism, gives gross weights a11d tubule diameters. VVatson records seasonal changes in testicular diameter in the green finch. Riddle offers data on size and length relations in the right and left testes of the pigeon. Rasmussen, in his study of the seasonal changes in the marmot, employed cell counts of interstitial cells and records piercentage weights of the testicles. Lengths of individual tubules were determined in the mouse, rabbit, and dog by Curtis. Huber and Curtis, writing on the seminiferous tubules in mammals, mention in an incidental Way some quantitative data as to tubule length. Cunningham’s Manual of Practical Anatomy, without citing the source of information, makes the statement that the human testicle “consists of four to six hundred fine hairlike tubes. . . ., each of which is about 60 cm. (two feet) long.”

To our knowledge, no quantitative method has been applied to the measurement and comparison of total tubule length of the seminiferous tubules in a series of laboratory and domestic animals. In this paper such a method and the results of its application are set forth.

Materials and Methods

Total tubule lengths of single normal testicles were computed for the following species: albino mouse, albino rat, guinea pig, cat, Belgian hare (rabbit, dog, man, pig, sheep, and bull (cow). The testicles were separated from the epididymis and other extraneous tissue and were weighed in the fresh condition before fixation. In the case of certain representative testicles of the bull and pig, the tunica albuginea was stripped off and the mediastinum dissected out in the fresh condition and weighed separately from the rest of the testicle.

Bouin’s fluid was used in general as the fixative, Zenker’s fluid and 10 per cent formalin in a few cases. The testicles of the mouse, rat, Guinea pig, cat, hare, and dog were fixed for a brief interval entire and then sliced with a razor for further fixation. From the larger testicles blocks of tissue were removed with a razor and fixed. Both celloidin and paraffin were used for embedding, the former, to the greater extent, proving also the more satisfactory. The combination of stains most frequently used was hematoxylin-eosin.

The quantitative technique employed for determining total tubule length may best be presented by following successive steps in two typical examples.

Example 1. Bull testicle X3. Fresh weight, 274 grams

By the steps previously outlined it was determined that the tunica albuginea and mediastinum weighed 15.5 grams (5.6 per cent of the total weight of this testicle). Hence tubules and interstitial tissue weighed 258.5 grams.

Several representative fields in sections of this testicle were projected with an Edinger drawing apparatus and the tubules drawn in outline. Then the relative amounts of tubules and interstitial tissue present in these drawings were measured in two ways: by use of a polar planimeter and by the paper method already employed by Bascom in estimating the amounts of interstitial tissue in testicles of swine. In testicle X 3 the relative percentages of tubules and interstitial tissue were, respectively, 83.9 per cent and 16.1 per cent. Since, as already stated, tubules and interstitial tissue together weighed 258.5 grams, according to the above percentages the testicle was calculated to contain 216.88 grams of tubules. For all practical purposes the specific gravity of fresh tissue may be taken as 1.0, hence the 216.88 grams of tubules are assumed to be very nearly equivalent to a volume of 216.88 cc. or 216,880 cu. mm.

By means of a microscope with eyepiece micrometer, the average diameter of fifty seminiferous tubules was found to be 0.238 mm. Using the formula 1r’l‘3, the average cross-sectional area of the seminiferous tubules was calculated to be 0.0446 Dividing total tubule volume in cubic millimeters (216,880) by cross-sectional area in square millimeters (0.0446) gives the total tubule length of this testicle in millimeters (4,862,000). This sum is more compactly expressed as 4862 meters or as 4.862 kilometers.

Example 2. Guinea-pig testicle. X 1.2 A. Fresh weight, 1.2423 grams

In this case the tunica albuginea and mediastinum could not conveniently be dissected away in the fresh condition. Representative transverse sections from difierent parts of the testicle were prepared. By means of the Edinger apparatus, a drawing was made from "one of these sections and, with the aid of the planimeter, the percentage of mediastinum present was calculated (8.89 per cent). This was assumed to be the percentage of mediastinum in this testicle.

The volume of tunica albuginea was determined in a diiferent way.

Its thickness was measured with a11 eyepiece micrometer and found to average 0.031 mm. The Guinea-pig testicle approaches the spherical form rather closely. Accordingly, testicle X 12 A was assumed to be a sphere having a volume of 1.2423 cc., or 1242.3, the volume assumed to be equivalent to the weight of this testicle. The volume of a sphere equals 7r?°3, hence a sphere of the above volume has a radius of 6.668 mm. The thickness of the tunica albuginea (0.031 mm.) subtracted from this radius gives 6.637 mm. as the radius of the smaller sphere, with a volume of 1223.6, representing tubules and interstitial tissue and mediastinum.

The percentage of mediastinum in this testicle, calculated as shown above, was 8.89 per cent, equivalent to 110.4 Hence the net volume of tubules and interstitial tissue becomes 1223.6 minus 110.4, or 1113.2 Of this volume 91.83 per cent, or 1022.25, was seminiferous tubules, determined as in example 1. Average tubule diameter was determined by micrometer measurement to be 0.244 mm. Employing the formula 1r)‘2, the average cross—sectional area is 0.0467 Dividing volume of tubules (102-2.25) by cross-sectional area (0.0467) therefore gives 21,889 mm., or 21.889 .‘I“.l“l.(§i(3I"S as the total tubule length in this testicle.

We believe these two examples suffieiently illustrate the methods by which the results to be set forth in this paper were obtained. Corrections have not been. made and could not easily be made for certain minor errors, such as assuming the guinea~pig testicle to be perfectly spherical, assuming the specific gravity of the testicle to be 1.0, or assuming that all elements of the testicle shrink equally under such technical treatment as we have employed, but we do not believe that they substantially afieet our result.

Thanks are due Mr. Herman Melton for technical assistance.


The numerical data obtained by the above methods are summarized in table 1.


In table 1 the column of gross weights of testicles shows great variation in Weight in the differeiit species~——from 0.0556 gram in the mouse to 367 grams iii a bear. In View of this great; disparity in testicular weights, it is interesting to find that the diameters of the tubules in the above-mentioned testieles are, respectively, 0.191 mm. and 0.223 mm.—a (:lifit'e1' ‘All calculations as to percentage composition are leased on the planimeter met.hod for the sake of uniformity and because we believe it to be more accurate than the paper method. We have also found it to be more rapid and less tedious. Results obtained by applying both methods to each of twenty-six testicles of animals of ten difierent species show an average discrepancy between the two sets of results of 2.48 per cent, figures obtained with the planimeter method being on the average slightly higher tlian those worked out by the paper method.

In the first paper of this series (Baseom, ’:'35) no allowance was made for tunica. albuginea and mediastinum in calculating the amounts of tubules and interstitial tissue in pig testicles. relative percentages of tubules and interstitial tissue are not affected by this error, but absolute weights of these elements as given in that paper are about 8 per cent too large.

Table 1

Table 1 Species Testis Tubule Data
Species and Collection Number Gross Weight of Testis (grams) Weight of Tubules (grams) Diameter of Tubules (mm) Cross-Sect. Area of Tubules (sq. mm.) Total Tubule Length (meters)
Albino Mouse
Albino Rat
Guinea pig
Belgian hare
Man X 10 12.21 6.577 0.1834 0.0263 249.7

ence of only 14.3 per cent. Rat testicle R 11 had a greater tubule diameter (().2654 mm.) than was found in any other testicle studied, not excepting‘ even those of the boar, bull, or ram. The smallest average tubule diameter iii the adult was found iii the human testicle X 10 (0.1834 mm.). The maxi mum va.riatie11 in tubule diameter in this series of testicles then, in round numbers, 30 per cent. There is no direct relationship betweeii tubule diameter and the size of the adult animal far as our evidence goes.

Table 2

Table 2 Testis Tubule Length
Species I. Meters of Tubules per gram or cubic cm of Tubules II. Meters of Tubules per gram of Total Testicular Weight
Mouse 31.5—35.0 27.2 - 30.3
Rat (adult) 18.4-21.8 15.8 18.2
Rat (immature) 46.9 30.8
Guinea pig 21.4—24.8 17.6 21.9
Rat (not full grown) 39.0—39.9 27.4-28.5
Hare (adult) 37.8 30.4
Hare (immature) 267.0 163.0
Dog 27.5 - 29.8 22.9 - 25.8
Man 37.9 20.4
Pig 25.2 25.6 14.5 17.2
Sheep (M 170, adult) 28.9 22.6
Sheep (M 137, 6 mos.) 58.4 46.2
Sheep (M 299, 3 mos.) 103.0 70.0
Bull 22.4 ~ 32.6 16.1 - 23.7

The average cross-sectional area of the tubule in the rat testicle R 11 is ().0553 and in the human testicle X 10 is (,).()12i(f33—ii.11 round numbers, a difference of 50 per cent.

The significance of tubule size may perhaps be more easily grasped when expressed as in table 2, column 1, in terms of the number of meters of tubules equivalent to 1 grani in Weight or 1. cc. in volume.

Even, after allowance is made for tunica albuginea and mediast.inum, normal adult testicles Vary in relative percents ages of tubules and interstitial tissue. These variations in the species studied are summarized i11 table In each case the percentage of interstitial tissue is therefore equal to 100 minus the percentage of tubules given in the table.

Table 3 consequently indicates numerically the differences in pattern found in this series of normal adult testicles due to Varying amounts of interstitial tissue.

Table 3

Table 3 Relative Percentages of Tuhules and Interstitial Tissue
Species Percentage Of Tubules Intestis
(excluding tunica albuginea and mediastinum)
Guinea pig 89.8 - 97.0
Dog 92.2 - 94.2
Mouse 88.9 - 90.3
Hare 89.0
Rat 88.5 - 89.6
Cat 84.5 - 86.9
Sheep 84.6
Bull 76.4 - 83.9
Man 72.8
Plg 62.2 - 72. 6

Total tubule lengths for the adult animals studied are summarized in round numbers in table 4.

Incidental data exist from which total tubule length in the testicle of man and of the mouse may be calculated. Cunningham gives figures indicating a total tubule length in the human testicle of 800 to 1200 feet. Our calculation, involving a different method, gives 249.7 meters, or 819 feet.

Table 4

Table 4 Testis Tubule Length
Species Total Tubule Length in Meters
Mouse 2
Rat 20
Guinea pig 40
Cat (not full grown) 25
Belgian hare 70
Dog 150
Man 250
Pig 3000-6000
Sheep 4000
Bull 5000

Huber and Curtis state that the mouse testicle contains sixteen tubules. One tubule was found to be 13 cm. in length. These figures imply a total tubule length for the mouse testicle of about 2 meters. Our figure, independently calculated, is also about 2 meters. To this extent previous data secured by methods entirely different from ours confirm our computations.

At first glance the disparity in total tubule length between the larger and smaller mammals seems fairly incredible, but a little arithmetic will reveal that actually the smaller animals have a greater length of tubules per unit of body weight than do the larger ones. For example, in round numbers, a mouse would have about 1 meter of tubules per 10 grams of body weight, while a bull would have approximately 1 meter of tubules per 100 grams of body weight. If the testicle made up the same percentage of body Weight in the bull as it does in the mouse, the bull testicle would have, instead of 5000 meters of tubules, upwards of 300,000 meters. In this connection it is interesting to refer once more to table 1 and note that the mouse ha.s a tubule diameter of almost 0.2 mm., while the bull. has an average tubule diameter only 16 per cent greater (0.24 mm.). In other words, increased volume of germinal epithelium in larger testicles comes largely or wholly from increase in tubule length, not from increase in tubule diameter.

Certain immature animals are marked in table 1 with asterisks. Rat was thirty—nine days old and weighed 59.5 gmms. His testicle weight. was approximately 25 per cent that of a normal adult, but the total tubule length of his testicle was about 50 per cent that of the adult.

Rat.. R2 was siixtyvsix. days old and Weiglied 150 grams. His testicular weight. and tzubule length were almost those of the adult, although only in the earliest stages of sexual mal'l11"ll'}’.

Rat R 1 was 190 (lays old and weighed 304 grams, yet his testicular weight. and total tubule lengtxli only Sli.g’l'1tl_\' ex(e(_~e<fle(‘l those of R 2, who was one-third his age and one-half his body weight.

iBel.gian hare 19 was less than a third grown. His testicular weight was about one-eleventh and his tubule length two-fi:l't.l1s that of X 18, an adult of the same species.

\-I 299 was a lamb, three months old. Its testicular weiglit was about. one-ele\—’e11tl1 that of the adult, but its l"l'll.")'I1l(..‘. lengtll more tllau one—fo'u1‘th that of the adu'.l.t.

$10.13? was a lamb about six months old. lts t1.est.i(-ular weiglit was about half that. of the adult, but its tubule length at least equal. to that of adult bill 170. QUANTITATIVE srunrus on THE TESTICLE 167

These comparisons of immature with mature testicles lead to the conclusion that total tubule length is greater in proportion to testicular Weight in the young than in the adult testicle and that adult tubule length is probably attained in the growing animal a considerable time before adult testicular Weight and adult tubule diameter have been reached.

The factors which determine testicular pattern are tubule diameter, relative amount of interstitial tissue, and amount of tunica albuginea and mediastinum. These factors are individually variable. The combined effect of their variability upon testicular pattern may be expressed numerically as in table 2, column II, in terms of the number of meters of tubules per gram of testicular weight. These data are obviously secured by dividing the total tubule length of given testicles in meters by their respective Weights in grams. This column illustrates the following points: similarity in pattern in the adult testicles of certain species, differences in pattern in the adult testicles of other species, and changes in pattern during growth in a given species. a

Summary and Conclusions

  1. A quantitative method is described for determining the amounts of interstitial tissue and seminiferous tubules as Well as the total length of these tubules. Testicles from animals of the following species were studied: albino mouse, albino rat, Guinea pig, cat, Belgian hare, dog, man, pig, sheep, and bull.
  2. The gross Weights of these testicles ranged from 0.0556 gram (albino mouse) to 367 grams (boar).
  3. Adult tubule diameter had a maximum variation of only 0.1834 mm. (man) to 0.2654 mm. (albino rat).
  4. Total tubule length in the adult varied from 1.67 meters (albino mouse) to 6312 meters (bear).
  5. The small variation in tubule diameter in conjunction with the tremendous differences in total tubule length indicate that space for increased volume of germinal epithelium in the larger testicles is afforded largely and sometimes wholly by increase in total tubule length, not by increase in tubule diameter.
  6. In spite of the great total tubule length encountered in the larger species, the smaller animals, such as the mouse and rat, actually have a greater length of seminiferous tubules per 11nit of body Weight.
  7. The pattern of a given testicle depends upon the relative amounts of tunica albuginea, mediastinum, interstitial tissue, and tubules, and upon tubule diameter. The combination of these factors as they occur in a given testicle may be numerically expressed in terms of number of meters of tubules per gram. of total testicular weight. This sum varies with the species studied as well as with the state of development of the individual (table 2, column II).
  8. Total tubule length is greater in proportion to total testicular Weight in the young than in the adult.
  9. Adult tubule length probably is attained in the growing animal a considerable time before adult testicular weight and adult tubule diameter have been reached.


BASCOM, K. F. 1925 Quantitative studies of the testis. I. Some observations on the cryptorchid testes of sheep and swine. Anat. Rec., vol. 30.

BESSESEN, A. N ., AND CARLSON, H. A. 1923 Postnatal growth in weight of the various organs in the guinea pig. Am. Jour. Anat., vol. 31.

Boom AND ANGEL 1903 Testicule des Mammifcres. Arch. de Zool. Exp. ct Gcn., T. 1.

1904 Glande interstitielle du testicule. J our. (le Phys. et de Path. Gen., T. 6.

BREMER, J. L. 1911 Morphology of the tubules of the human testis and epididymis. Am. Jour. An:-at-., vol. 11.

CURTIS, G. M. 1918 The morphology of the mammalian seminiferous tubule. Am. Jour. Anat., Vol. 24.

HATAI, SHINKISHI 1913 On the weights of the abdominal and thoracic viscera, the sex glands, ductless glands, and the eyeballs of the albino rat (Mus norvegicus albinus) according to body weight. Am. Jour. Anat., vol. 15.

JACKSON, 0. M. 1913 Postnatal growth and variability of the body and the various organ in the albino rat. Am. Jour. Anat, vol. 15.

LAT-IMER, H. B. 1920 The weights of the viscera of the common frog. Anat. Rec., vol. 18.

1920 The weights of the viscera of the turtle. Anat. Rec, vol. 19.

MASSAGLIA, A. C. 1920 The internal secretion of the testis. Endocrinology, vol. 4.

HUBER, G. (3., AND CURTIS, G. M. 1913 The morphology of the seminiferous tubules of mammalia. Anat. Rec., vol. 7.

MOORE, C. R. 1924 Properties of the gonads as controllers of somatic and psychical characteristics. VI. Testicular reactions in experimental eryptorchidism. Am. Jour. Anat., vol. 34.

RASMUSSEN, A. T. 1917 Seasonal changes in the interstitial cells of the testis in the woodchuck (Marmota monax). Am. Jour. Anat., vol. 22.

1918 Cyclic changes in the interstitial cells of the ovary and testis in the woodchuck (Marmota monax). Endocrinology, vol. 2.

RIDDLE, OSCAR. 1916 Size and length relations of the right and left testicles of pigeons in health and disease. Anat. Rec., vol. 11.

1918 Further observations on the relative size and form of the right and left testes in pigeons in health and disease as influenced by hybridity. Anat. Rec., vol. 14.

ROBINSON, ARTHUR 1920 Cunningham ’s manual of practical anatomy, 7th edition. Vol. 2. Thorax and abdomen.

SIPERSTEIN, D. M. 1921 The efiects of acute and chronic inanition upon the development and structure of the testis in the albino rat. Anat. Rec., vol. 20.

WATSON, ALEXANDER 1919 A tudy of seasonal changes in avian testes. J our. of Phys., vol. 53.

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