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Internal Fertilization

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Internal fertilization occurs most often in terrestrial animals, although some aquatic animals also use this method. Internal fertilization may occur by the male directly depositing sperm in the female during mating. It may also occur by the male depositing sperm in the environment, usually in a protective structure, which a female picks up to deposit the sperm in her reproductive tract. There are three ways that offspring are produced following internal fertilization. In oviparity, fertilized eggs are laid outside the female’s body and develop there, receiving nourishment from the yolk that is a part of the egg (Figure 18.7). This occurs in some bony fish, some reptiles, a few cartilaginous fish, some amphibians, a few mammals, and all birds. Most non-avian reptiles and insects produce leathery eggs, while birds and some turtles produce eggs with high concentrations of calcium carbonate in the shell, making them hard. Chicken eggs are an example of a hard shell. The eggs of the egg-laying mammals such as the platypus and echidna are leathery.

In ovoviparity, fertilized eggs are retained in the female, and the embryo obtains its nourishment from the egg’s yolk. The eggs are retained in the female’s body until they hatch inside of her, or she lays the eggs right before they hatch. This process helps protect the eggs until hatching. This occurs in some bony fish (like the platyfish Xiphophorus maculatus,Figure 18.7), some sharks, lizards, some snakes (garter snake Thamnophis sirtalis), some vipers, and some invertebrate animals (Madagascar hissing cockroach Gromphadorhina portentosa).

In viviparity the young are born alive. They obtain their nourishment from the female and are born in varying states of maturity. This occurs in most mammals (Figure 18.7), some cartilaginous fish, and a few reptiles.

Figure 18.7 In (a) oviparity, young develop in eggs outside the female body, as with these Harmonia axydridis beetles hatching. Some aquatic animals, like this (b) pregnant Xiphophorus maculatus are ovoviparous, with the egg developing inside the female and nutrition supplied primarily from the yolk. In mammals, nutrition is supported by the placenta, as was the case with this (c) newborn squirrel.