You might not believe it but a rodent’s sperm is longer than a pachyderm’s sperm. That is the paradox of Nature.
It might seem odd but a mouse’s sperm is longer than an elephant’s sperm. In fact, the longest sperm belongs to the minute fruit fly. It is a very strange thing but the smaller the creature, the longer its sperm. And the larger the animal, the smaller its sperm. There are a couple of ideas about why sperm size is different in different animals.
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The metabolisms of big and small animals are one factor that enters the equation. The smaller animals have higher metabolisms and so they keep producing sperm cells. As for the bigger animals, they don’t have such a high turnover rate when it comes to sperm production.
Then the next problem is the female of the species. For a male elephant to impregnate a female, the passage through to the uterus is pretty long. Thus a longer tailed sperm isn’t going to be very helpful here.
Rather the elephant has to produce as many sperms as possible. But the problem still remains since the bigger the sperm, the less of it there is in a sample of ejaculate.
A small creature like a mouse has a fast metabolism and fewer tabs on the amount of sperm it produces. And a large creature like an elephant has a slow metabolism and more tabs on the amount of sperm it produces.
But as animals get bigger in size, they actually tend to produce more sperm. Thus this shows us that metabolism has nothing to do with sperm size. Rather the size of the animal is what matters in the end. As the animals gets bigger, it produces more sperms than usual thereby substituting size for numbers.
The lengthier sperm of the mouse ensures that it will get their into the female mouse’s uterus with the other sperm from other mice. It also ensures that the time taken is not so long.
Meanwhile, the elephant’s sperm has barely a chance of making it to the female elephant’s uterus no matter how long it may be. Thus instead of length, numbers are where the elephant takes precedence over smaller creatures like the mouse. Therefore size does have an effect in animals when it comes to spermatozoa, but it is not in the way we think it should.
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This research was published on Wednesday in the Proceedings of The Royal Society.