July 5, 2022

The male (from the Latin masculus: “male, masculine, virile”) is, in biology, an organism or an organ producing motile gametes in the context of anisogamous sexual reproduction. The organism or organ producing the complementary counterpart, in the form of non-motile gametes but very rich in nutrient reserves, is called female.


Unlike isogamous reproduction, there are two types of gametes in anisogamous reproduction: a gamete endowed with a certain motility (eg pollen, antherozoid); a rather vegetative gamete often having large nutrient reserves (eg oospore). The organ or organism producing the vegetative counterpart of sexual reproduction is referred to as female. The organ or organism producing the motile counterpart of sexual reproduction is referred to as male.

Anisogamous reproduction

The male gamete must travel to the female gamete for fertilization to take place. Various strategies have emerged during evolution, including simultaneous or dioecious hermaphroditism, successive hermaphroditism or even individual sexuation.


The spermatozoon, produced by a testicle of the male individual, will fertilize the egg produced by the female individual which will turn into an embryo which will then give birth to a young directly (sometimes passing through a larval stage) in viviparous species or through an egg laid in oviparous species. In some species, notably fish, fertilization takes place in the environment, the fertilized eggs not being carried by the female.

Examples of individual sexuation in animals

In humans, as in most mammals and some insects (diptera) the male is characterized by the pair of sex chromosomes XY. In birds, some insects (butterflies) and fish, the male is characterized by the pair of sex chromosomes ZZ. In other insects (grasshoppers, locusts, cockroaches, among others), the male is often characterized by the mismatch of the sex chromosome X. Finally, in other animals (Hymenoptera, beetles, mites, rotifers, etc.), the male is characterized by the fact that he is haploid instead of being diploid.


In plants, the gametophyte is the individual or the organ allowing the production and the meeting of the male and female gametes. The gametophyte being itself derived from a spore produced by meiosis, it is therefore a haploid organism. After fertilization, an embryo is formed, then a sporophyte, a diploid organism. Depending on the clades and species, the sporophyte part or the gametophyte part dominates by their length in the reproductive cycle. Depending on the species, individuals are monoecious (one individual has male and female organs simultaneously) or dioecious (male and female organs are distributed either among individuals or at different times in the cycle).


Among the most familiar animal species, the male and the female are often designated by distinct names: thus we have the bull and the cow, the boar and the sow, the ram and the sheep, the rooster and the hen, etc. . In less familiar species the adjectives “male” and “female” are used to distinguish the two sexes; example: a mole (male or female), a hedgehog (male or female), the name of the species can also be masculine or feminine. Male as an adjective characterizes the organs and functions related to reproduction and the male sex. It is used in both zoology and botany.

Examples and anecdotes

The individuals carrying the eggs during embryonic development in the hippocampus are the males, not because of an external genitalia, but because their gametes are d