Are Sperm a Living Creature?

Matthew Rainbow rainbow at
Sun Dec 29 14:50:59 EST 1996

Sperm are living cells, so they are definitely considered to be "living
things" although it is not common to hear them referred to as "living
creatures".  You cannot be held incorrect in doing so, however.  Sperm,
and their female counterpart, eggs, are "germ line" cells, cells which
have the sole purpose of reproducing the organism.  Germ line cells are
not listed in their own taxonomic group any more than human eye cells,
or liver cells, or skin cells are listed in their own taxonomic group.

I cannot resist pointing out that to modern biologists, or at least to
those of us who have a good grasp of molecular biology, the definition
of "life" itself is a vague thing, since living things are made of
regular old atoms.  A good way to think about that is to consider a
robot or android like Lieutenant Commander Data from Star Trek:  if a
machine like Data is ever built (and it may be someday in the very
distant future) would you consider Data to be "alive"?  Either answer
you give to that question can be a respectable one, and the main point
is that you too are a machine, just like Data, because you too are made
of normal matter which obeys the laws of physics and chemistry.  So with
a sperm.

More information about the Bioforum mailing list