Paper - The mammalian spermatozoon

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Fawcett DW. The Mammalian Spermatozoon. (1975) Dev. Biol. 44, 394-436.

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This historic 1975 paper by Fawcett, a researcher who studied cell biology using electron micrography, looks at spermatozoa

The 1677 discovery he refers to in the text is that by Anton van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutchman who developed the early compound microscope. In 1677 on examination of his own ejaculate and identified tiny “animalcules” he found wriggling inside.

Royal Society London 1677.

If your Lordship should consider that these observations may disgust or scandalise the learned, I earnestly beg your Lordship to regard them as private and to publish or destroy them as your Lordship sees fit.

Modern Notes: spermatozoa

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The Mammalian Spermatozoon

Don W. Fawcett

As we approach the three hundredth anniversary of the discovery of the spermatozoon (1677) it seems timely to review what we know of the structure of this fascinating cell. Perhaps no better example could be found of the slow beginnings of biological science and of the rapid recent acceleration in the tempo of discovery resulting from advances in instrumentation.

Fawcett1975 fig31.jpg

Fig. 31. A longitudinal thin section of the middle piece of a mammalian spermatozoon The circumferentially oriented mitochondria are cut transversely. Note how closely the celi membrane is apposed to the underlying mitochondria.

Fawcett1975 fig34.jpg Fig. 34. Spermatozoa Tail

A - A longitudinal section through the principal piece of a sperm tail, approximally in the plane passing through fibers 2 and 7 or 9 and 4 of the cross-section shown above. The section includes two doublets and one of the central pair of axonemal microtubules, two outer fibers and groups of partially fused ribs of the fibrous sheath.

B - A freeze cleaving preparation of the membrane on the side of the principal piece over the major compartment containing outer fibers 4 to 7. There is a high concentration of randomly distributed membrane intercalated particles.

C - A freeze-cleave preparation of the membrane on the side of the minor compartment containing fibers 9, 1 and 2. A double row of large particles runs longitudinally within the membrane overlying fiber number one. A slight thickening of the membrane at this site is evident (at the arrow) in the cross-section shown above.

Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2024, May 18) Embryology Paper - The mammalian spermatozoon. Retrieved from

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