Simultaneous hermaphroditism

The fifth in a series from the blog Gender and Sexuality in Nature, a 2016 UC Davis course organized by UM EEB alumnus Ash Zemenick (UM EEB B.S. 2011, Ph.D. UC Davis 2017) and Jacob Moore (B.S. University of Washington 2009, Ph.D. UC Davis 2017).

Simple schematic showing three plant sexual systems (Image credit University of Georgia)

As an evolutionary biologist and an invertebrate zoologist, I’ve long been interested in the diversity of mating systems that are found in animals (and plants!). In particular, I’m interested in the co-occurrence of male and female traits in a single individual. How does having both male and female traits influence who you mate with and how you take care of your offspring?? These characteristics are found in plants and animals that produce both eggs (or seeds) and sperm (or pollen) at the same time (simultaneously!). We call these organisms simultaneous hermaphrodites.

We find examples of simultaneous hermaphroditism in many different plants and animals across their respective kingdoms including many that you are likely already familiar with: earthworms, leaches, snails, slugs, sponges, barnacles, and most flowering plants, to name a few.

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For materials and information on teaching sex- and gender-related topics in biology see  Reposted with permission with the caveat that these posts are several years old and Project Biodiversify and other efforts like Gender Inclusive Biology and other LBGTQIA2+ people are always working to improve and update.