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Name: Laura M.
Status: Educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001

Can a hermaphrodite reproduce?

Hermaphrodites usually contain both sex organs. They can fertilize their own eggs but this is not a satisfactory solution for the long term because this creates offspring genetically identical to the parent. This will not do in case the environment changes down the road and none of the members of the population can survive the change. There must be some way of creating variation. Hermaphrodites can also usually mate with other members of its species by exchanging sperm with them. They then use the sperm to fertilize their eggs and this produces the necessary genetic variation.


Yes ...earthworms, snail, leeches, and many trees (trees that have both sexes are called monoecious (one house). It is a way of a species hedging its bets that it will meet a mate.

Peter Faletra Ph.D.
Assistant Director
Science Education
Office of Science
Department of Energy

Laura, "if you are refering to humans," it is a guess, but I am voting no, based on the fact that many people with chromosomal abnormalities that grossly affect sexual development are sterile.

Paul Mahoney, Ph.D.

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