18.1 How Animals Reproduce
Reproduction may be asexual when one individual produces genetically identical offspring, or sexual when the genetic material from two individuals is combined to produce genetically diverse offspring. Asexual reproduction in animals occurs through fission, budding, fragmentation, and parthenogenesis. Sexual reproduction may involve fertilization inside the body or in the external environment. A species may have separate sexes or combined sexes; when the sexes are combined they may be expressed at different times in the life cycle. The sex of an individual may be determined by various chromosomal systems or environmental factors such as temperature.
Sexual reproduction starts with the combination of a sperm and an egg in a process called fertilization. This can occur either outside the bodies or inside the female. The method of fertilization varies among animals. Some species release the egg and sperm into the environment, some species retain the egg and receive the sperm into the female body and then expel the developing embryo covered with shell, while still other species retain the developing offspring throughout the gestation period.
18.2 Development and Organogenesis
The early stages of embryonic development begin with fertilization. The process of fertilization is tightly controlled to ensure that only one sperm fuses with one egg. After fertilization, the zygote undergoes cleavage to form the blastula. The blastula, which in some species is a hollow ball of cells, undergoes a process called gastrulation, during which the three germ layers form. The ectoderm gives rise to the nervous system and the epidermal skin cells, the mesoderm gives rise to the muscle cells and connective tissue in the body, and the endoderm gives rise to the digestive system and other internal organs. Organogenesis is the formation of organs from the germ layers. Each germ layer gives rise to specific tissue types.
18.3 Human Reproduction
The reproductive structures that evolved in land animals allow males and females to mate, fertilize internally, and support the growth and development of offspring. Gametogenesis, the production of sperm (spermatogenesis) and eggs (oogenesis), takes place through the process of meiosis.
The male and female reproductive cycles are controlled by hormones released from the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary and hormones from reproductive tissues and organs. The hypothalamus monitors the need for FSH and LH production and release from the anterior pituitary. FSH and LH affect reproductive structures to cause the formation of sperm and the preparation of eggs for release and possible fertilization. In the male, FSH and LH stimulate Sertoli cells and interstitial cells of Leydig in the testes to facilitate sperm production. The Leydig cells produce testosterone, which also is responsible for the secondary sexual characteristics of males. In females, FSH and LH cause estrogen and progesterone to be produced. They regulate the female reproductive cycle, which is divided into the ovarian cycle and the menstrual cycle.
Human pregnancy begins with fertilization of an egg and proceeds through the three trimesters of gestation. The first trimester lays down the basic structures of the body, including the limb buds, heart, eyes, and the liver. The second trimester continues the development of all of the organs and systems. The third trimester exhibits the greatest growth of the fetus and culminates in labor and delivery. The labor process has three stages (contractions, delivery of the fetus, and expulsion of the placenta), each propelled by hormones.