The Most Largest And Smallest Sex Cell In The World Today
The sperm is the smallest cell in human biology, but also one of the most complex. The egg meanwhile is the largest cell and similarly intricate. Looking further out into the natural world, the diversity of these sex cells, or gametes, is truly remarkable.
Most species have two gametes, which we term male and female.
“Gametes have two fundamental jobs: to carry resources to nurture the resulting offspring, and to find gametes of the same species and fuse with them. To be good at both is a challenge, because the two jobs create opposing drives across a size-number trade-off,” explains Matthew Gage from the University of East Anglia, UK.
“One optimum is to produce gametes that maximise offspring survival, and so evolution makes large, nutritive gametes, which we call eggs produced by females.
The other optimum is to produce gametes that maximise fusions, and so evolution makes millions of gametes we call sperm, made by males.”
Why sperm cells come in so many shapes and sizes is a rich area of research.
You would expect the smallest organisms to have the tiniest male sex cells but this is not always the case. In fact, the longest known sperm belongs to a fly.
The fruit fly Drosophila bifurca produces a sperm cell like a ball of string. When scientists unravelled the cell and measured it from end to end, they discovered that it was almost 6cm long. That is 20 times longer than the male fly’s entire body.