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Hermaphroditism (Gr. From Hermes and Aphrodite ), hermaphroditism or hermaphroditism describes in biology the state of double- sex individuals, i.e. individuals of a species with male and female gender expression that form both male and female germ cells or genital organs .

Concepts of bisexuality outside of biology (e.g. in psychology , mythology ) are known as androgyny .

Hermaphroditism in plants

Tulip blossom with male ( anthers ) and female ( ovary ) genital organs

In the plant kingdom in particular, hermaphroditism is widespread. In seed plants, a distinction is made between two types of hermaphrodite: monoecious plants have both male (staminate) and female (carpellate) flowers on one plant, genuinely hermaphrodite plants only have one type of flower (staminocarpellate, stamen fruit petal flowers), in which male and female flowers are at the same time Genital organs are located. Self-fertilization is avoided in most species by means of various strategies of self-incompatibility .

Hermaphroditism in animals

In animals, hermaphroditism occurs mainly in invertebrates such as earthworms and cnidarians . Among the snails only land snails , nudibranchs and some freshwater snails are hermaphrodite.

Hermaphroditism is a normal part of the life cycle of animals. Here, hermaphrodites are often the sexually reproducing animals within an otherwise asexually reproducing species. Within vertebrates, hermaphroditism is mainly found in various species of fish ( Serranus ), less often in terrestrial vertebrates (individual toad and toad species ) to find. Here the male usually has a rudimentary ovary at the top of the testicle; however, the female sometimes has a rudimentary, non-functioning testicle. This occurs occasionally in carp and some other fish, and in rare cases in mammals as well.

Cell Thermaphroditism

In cell biology , the theory of the hermaphroditism of cells emerged at the end of the 19th century, because although it was possible to see under the microscope that the suspected female and male genetic makeup are transferred in equal parts to the first embryonic cell, the discovery of the sex-determining XY / XX-Systems did not take place until 1905 by Edmund B. Wilson and Nettie Stevens .

Etymology and history of words

The mythological figure Hermaphroditus

Word origin

The word hermaphrodite ("bisexual being") is derived from Hermaphroditos , a figure from Greek mythology . In his Metamorphoses , Ovid described how the son of Aphrodites and Hermes , through the firm embrace of the amorous nymph Salmakis, became a bisexual being, and interprets this as the etiology of the hybrid formation.

In English in the 18th century, corrupt forms of Engl. hermaphrodite also mophrodite and (through metathesis ) morphodite emerged, the latter form of which is still used today, especially in colloquial language and slang , to denote a bisexual person, a person with an indeterminate gender or a homosexual person. In German translations from English is morphodite with Morphodit rendered the otherwise but is not commonly used in English.

In the literature

The term morphodite is used e.g. B. of Harper Lee in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird ( To Kill a Mocking Bird ) from 1960 used:

  • In chapter 8, Jem and Scout build a snowman out of earth and the scanty snow, which at first looks too much like Mr. Avery. Jem tries to disguise this similarity by adding characteristics of Miss Maudie - now the snowman is, as Miss Maudie puts it, "an absolute morphodite".
  • In Chapter 14, Scout parroted the unknown term when she yelled at Jem: "You damn morphodite, I'll kill you!"

The term morphodite is also used by the science fiction writer MA Foster in his morphodite trilogy ( The Morphodite Trilogy ), which is taken from the volumes Der Morphodit ( The Morphodite, 1981), The Transformer ( Transformer, 1983) and The Preserver ( Preserver, 1985) exists.

In the medicine

Classification according to ICD-10
Q56 Indeterminate gender and pseudo-hermaphroditism
ICD-10 online (WHO version 2019)

True hermaphroditism (simultaneous presence of testicular and ovarian tissue) rarely occurs in humans . Such cases are mostly pseudo-hermaphroditism of the separate-sex species Homo sapiens . Another name for this is intersexuality .

See also


  • Zwittrigkeit , Lexicon of Biology
  • Luc Brisson : Le sexe incertain. Androgyny et hermaphrodisme dans l'Antiquité gréco-romaine (Vérité des mythes. Sources). Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1997.

Web links

Commons : Hermaphrodites  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Hermaphrodite  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Press release of the Ruhr University Bochum from September 9, 2013, accessed on December 20, 2013
  2. W. Waldeyer : About karyokinesis and its relationship to the fertilization processes . In: Archives for microscopic anatomy . tape 32 , no. 1 , December 1888, p. 1–122 , doi : 10.1007 / BF02956988 ( PDF ).
  3. Frederic G. Cassidy et al. a. (Ed.): Dictionary of American Regional English , Vol. III. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.) 1996, p. 661 pp. v. "Morphodite"
  4. Jan Murken et al. (Ed.): Pocket textbook human genetics. 7th edition. Thieme, Stuttgart / New York, 2006, p. 457.
  5. Ulrich Kutschera: Evolutionary Biology (= UTB. Volume 8318). 3rd, updated and expanded edition, UTB / Ulmer, Stuttgart 2015, ISBN 978-3-8252-8318-6 ( [1] ).