A recreation of what those teeny tiny sperm look like as they do their level best to enter an egg cell has got our jaws dropping here at Babyology headquarters, and we think you’re going to love it too.
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The video – which is an animated 3D rendering of the jostling trip to conception – was shared by Instagram account 3FX Animation with a challenge to followers to “caption this!”
A similarly themed non-animated illustration shared on the same account is the work of art director RenderBurger. Posting the crowded and incredible still image to Instagram, the artist explained, “This is the ‘Sperms and Egg’ illustration I did for 3FX Inc. 2018 medical source book!”
View this post on Instagram
RenderBurger’s illustration and the 3FX animation are both pretty gosh-darned incredible. Brilliant effort on their part.
Interestingly the Instagram comments on the illustrated post are full of admiration for this work, but also lots of bro-town chatter about how great sperm is. Because some boys invariably will be boys.
Proud cries of “Ball sauce” and “Brotein” rung out.
And that got me thinking. Because these visuals are not JUST about sperm. Nu-uh.
These sperm are trying to wheedle their way into an egg. Yup. In fact, it’s more than a joint effort when you consider that the egg is inside a woman who has a number of amazing biological systems to optimise conception, but then may choose to carry any conceived offspring for many, many months.
Ball sauce, ball schmauce.
Hero-ing sperm is a bit of a thing, and even the language we use around sperm and eggs is skewed.
“Human egg production is commonly described as ‘wasteful’ because, from 300,000 egg starter cells present at puberty, only 400 mature eggs will ever be released,” Robert Martin (who is emeritus curator of biological anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago) points out in a brilliant piece of Aeon,“that adjective is rarely used to describe a man’s lifetime production of more than 2 trillion sperm.”
2. Trillion. Sperm.
We’ve perhaps been taught that sperm are like tiny athletes who race to the egg, with only the very strongest winning. But researchers say that it’s partly the luck of the draw that leads to sperm-meets-egg. It’s a bit hit and miss on the sperm’s part. In fact, it’s the female reproductive system that channels, weeds out and diverts many sperm – because frankly, 250 million sperm in EACH average human ejaculate is a lot.
Having too many sperm racing to fertilise an egg can apparently be problematic (it’s called polyspermy) so women’s amazing bodies have various systems to slow or promote the sperm’s pace and try to help ensure healthy and successful conception.
Sperm do not dash forth in an amazing race like solo gladiators. The uterine muscles help coax some of them along the fallopian tubes, towards the egg. Other sperm are dispersed in various ways, and can hang around inside a woman’s body for days.
In that piece for Aeon, Robert Martin explained that women have little ‘crypts’ inside their endocervical canal, and each crypt is capable of storing around 200,000 of those plentiful sperm.
Women are the real gladiators here
There’s another theory – shared in the same piece – “that after insemination the cervix serves as a sperm reservoir from which viable sperm are gradually released to make their way up the oviduct.”
Gradually released. No Bro-town racing here. Women are the real gladiators here, and very complex and evolved ones at that.
But back to these images because they are amazing and have prompted this pondering on sperm, eggs and the amazing reproductive process. Thank you to the artists involved!
NB: Of course these artists are not promoting the hero Bro-Town idea of sperm. Their views most likely do not reflect those of the people that commented on the post/s!