from male to female in 30 seconds

Hermaphrodism is relatively common among forms of marine life

image found here

Take nudibranchs. These snails-without-shells, also called sea slugs, are true hermaphrodites, having male sex organs on one end, female organs on the other. When these creatures have sex, they line up end to end, sometimes several individuals at a time, creating a kind of conga-line orgy.

alabaster nudibranch found here

Fish equipped with both testes and ovaries are called simultaneous hermaphrodites.

One such type of sea bass spawns about 14 times a day. About half the time, the individual releases eggs; the other half sperm. This fish can switch from one to the other in 30 seconds.

black sea bass (1900) found here

As these sea bass grow older, their female gonads grow larger, causing the fish to release more and more eggs and less and less sperm. This probably increases the species’ reproductive success rate since most eggs get fertilized, but most sperm don’t link with eggs.

black sea bass found here

Other simultaneous hermaphrodite fish grow more male tissue as they age. Usually, these fish keep changing, eventually becoming all male. Fish that change sex completely like this are called successive hermaphrodites. Wrasses, parrotfish, some gobies and several other reef fish are in this group.

tattooed parrotfish found here

Successive hermaphrodites perform sex-change acts in a variety of ways, depending upon the species and circumstances.

In clownfish (those cute orange fish that live with anemones), only the largest female and male of a group reproduce. If this large female dies, her mate becomes a female. Then the largest juvenile in the family moves up, becoming the new male.

clownfish found here

Other fish make more than one sex change. In Japanese reef gobies, a female in a group will become male if the dominant male leaves. If a larger male joins the group, the changed fish reverts to her former female self. This sex change takes only four days.

reef goby on brain coral found here

A two-male species, the midshipman of Northern California, has been studied extensively. Type I males take longer to mature, but grow bigger and develop strong vocal systems for courting.

These males, whose gonads account for only 1 percent of their weight, hum to attract females to their carefully built nests.

midshipman found here

Type II males, however, mature early. Their gonads account for a whopping 9 percent of their body weight. (This would be 16 pounds of testicles on a 180 pound man). And humming to attract mates? Forget it. These males use invasion to get mates, stealing both nests, and the females in them, from type I males.

Hermaphrodite fish are on the rise, thanks to the birth control pill and other natural and unnatural forms of estrogen that have made their way into the water. It is believed that it is the female estrogen hormones released from sewage treatment plants that are responsible for the feminization of wild fish.

image found here

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 7:55 am  Comments (61)  
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  1. It happens elsewhere, too. I’ve had plants change sex under extreme conditions. And a gentleman friend had his bits n pieces surgically removed.(But I don’t think drought had any bearing on that!)

    • Perhaps it was the man drought 😉

  2. Looking at my hake & chips with new curiosity …

    • …and skepticism?

  3. “Finding Nemo” just got a whole lot more interesting.

    • Yes it did

    • That was my exact thought. Well, that and how painful would it be to get a tattoo on my chest.

  4. Most of us give birth to our own problems

    • How many children do you have Carl?

      • Coupla hunnert thou but I’m learning not to be the source of my problems or for anyone else’s.

  5. You might also like Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation.

    • Not available on Kindle 😦

      • If you don’t want a paper book, try to find a DVD of the tv production.

  6. Yay! Nudibranchs!

    • Yes, I noticed you mentioned them on your blog too yesterday!

  7. And don’t forget Slugs !

  8. Hey, does anybody know if Jamie Lee Curtis is a hermaphrodite? I’ve heard that rumor batted around for years.

    • I read about that years ago but apparently it is just a rumour.

      • It’s probably a rumour and we’ll never know because she declines to respond. If I were Jamie Lee I wouldn’t dignify the rumour with a response either – if I were completely female.

        If she were an hermaphrodite, then she could probably do a lot to raise awareness of this not-as-rare-as-you-think occurrence. Up to 2% of babies have some degree of sexual ambiguity. I hope one day we’ll be able to accept those who fall outside of what is considered “normal” (male or female) and embrace a third possibility

      • Yay, Nurse Myra! I second that.

  9. Who knew?
    “female estrogen hormones released from sewage treatment plants that are responsible for the feminization of wild fish.”
    Also – I believe in increased sterility in men.

    • And dangerous side effects for the women who take them.

  10. Today there was an addition to the subject. This time involving calamari n- err – squid

    • “During mating, the male squid uses a modified arm to glue packets of his sperm to the female.

      These sperm packets release small sperm sacs called spermatangia, which are visible on their partner’s body.

      The presence of spermatangia on the skin is tangible evidence that a squid has mated.

      Of the 19 squid who had mated and whose sex could be determined, the researchers found that nine were males and 10 were females (embedded with between 15 and 150 spermatangia each).

      This proved that roughly equal numbers of females and males had mated with a male squid.”

      Ooh…. excellent link Archie

  11. Conga line orgy? where do i sign up?

    • Right this way, sir. Daisyfae is to your left…..

  12. Oh, oh. Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles…one of my favourite cartoon characters. He may not have made it your way yet, but carries his balls around in a wheel barrow.

    • The same English chap, from Harrow, famed in a limerick?

  13. How very convenient – and practical.
    The visual of the conga line produced a big smile….

  14. How interesting it would be if humans could change sex so readily. Except that the average man would be so terrified of turning into a woman, he’d have to be heavily sedated beforehand. But what insights he would gain about the treatment of women!

    • Jan Morris, who spent the first part of her life as James said that she noticed the difference in reception to her entering a room as a man and as a woman.
      She is also a well known writer: history, auto-biography and travel. I admire her a great deal.

      • Indeed, I know all about Jan Morris and many other transsexuals. I remember her comments about the different way she was treated when she changed gender. But as yet there is no such thing as a genuine sex change, only a change of appearance and behaviour – sometimes convincing, sometimes not.

      • See my first comment, above.

  15. male to female in 30 seconds…hmmm…sounds like what my ex did to me!

    • i guess more accurately i meant male to eunuch in 30 seconds….;)

      • Women can turn us us into eunuchs? I had no idea. I thought only surgeons could do that….

  16. 30 seconds? My other half turned me into a eunuch in five!

    • ftw!

    • ftw! (hopefully not a double post)

  17. They’ll all go blind!

  18. I’m speechless. There are too many fascinating facts in this post for me to focus.

    I can tell you know that the rest of my day is going to be spent educating myself about nudibrachs and their conga-line orgies.

  19. I love that old photo of the sea bass…
    a fairly small catch, though.
    Did I ever tell you about the time…

  20. Hormones are not the only problems wild creatures are being affected by. The large amounts of SSRIs being released is also affecting development and behavior.

    What a very interesting post, Nursemyra. The ways Nature have found to increase reproductive success is inspirational.

    • Are inspirational….

      • Having taken one SSRI or another for about fifteen years or so, that bit of information is very interesting, if alarming, to me.
        With the advent of Prozac we were told that these drugs were not addictive, They most certainly are addictive. The withdrawal synptoms are similar to a relapse of the original problem(s) making it difficult, almost impossible, to tell the difference. To stop, one must reduce the dose very, very slowly. They also stop working after a while and changing to a different one can be nightmarish. Having said all that, I must admit that I have benefited from these drugs.
        I’m wondering exactly what is happening to the sea creatures!

  21. I grew up believing I was a hermaphrodite; my brother was always telling me to go fuck myself…………..

  22. I sometimes think the animal population leads a far more interesting life than we do.

  23. Who said that about Finding Nemo? I’m more afraid of looking for Nurse Good-Body, and winding up with Mr. Good-bar.

    Dear Myra;
    What a wonderful fish tale. Very interesting, and well written post.
    Thanks, God Bless You

  24. 30 seconds? FIVE seconds? Good grief, I can’t even get my pantyhose on in that amount of ti….
    What’s that?
    Um.. (AHEM!) … I meant, how could someone get pantyhose on in 30 seconds? I’m sure I’d have NO idea what’s involved…..

    • You could probably get your pantyhose on in five seconds, but there wouldn’t be much left of it.

  25. Midshipman look like ducks with alien faces.

  26. If humans were like that, things would be a whole lot more interesting. And very confusing!

  27. But! But! Clownfish look so innocent.

  28. very interesting post! how interesting to note these sea creatures changing sex keep the balance.

  29. much more interesting than us humans…

    • TerraShield, you must not be a hardcore science fiction fan. I’ve seen quite a number of … interesting … variations on sexuality amongst fen (the plural of fan) at conventions. 😉

  30. I find it hard enough being one sex – being a hermaphroditic fish must be exhausting (especially with all that swimming – or is it the swimming that causes the hermaphroditism [why does Ian Thorpe swim into my thoughts at this point?])

  31. Somewhat off topic, I’ve seen two of those black sea bass in the water (free diving at a fish sanctuary on Catalina Island). They’re rare and really huge, easily 5 foot the ones I saw- really impressive. More on topic, fish sex seems not a lot of fun for them. Just my opinion of course.

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