Are Sperm a Living Creature?

Hernan Espinoza espinoza at cgl.ucsf.edu
Tue Dec 31 14:02:57 EST 1996


sidlip at lip.microserve.com (Sid Lipkin) writes:

>Always wondered this...Is human sperm classed as a living creature?

	First, a few philosophical ramblings :  What is alive and
what isn't depends on the particular set of definitions you use.
I'm going to use mine to answer your question, but I don't want
that to be confused with gospel.

	Sperm is alive, but it is not its own creature.   Rather,
it is a highly specialized, free-roaming organ of the male's body.
It is a partof the male body that is designed to be able to survive
independently of the body for a short amount of time for the sole
purpose of carrying genetic information.

>  Is there a genus of animals that it belongs to?

	No.

	 Bear in mind that the species/genus classification
system was designed for and works best for multicellular, sexually
reproducing organisms.   Its main value is that it is the standard
system we all use, but remember it is just a organizational scheme.
However, I cannot think of any scheme under which I would classify
sperm separately from the creature that produced them.

> Can sperm survive outside the human body(in a lab setting)?

	Yes.  They are designed to survive outside the human body that
produced them, after all.  However, they will not survive long (unless
frozen) and they will not reproduce themselves.  

>   What about anti-bodies?  are they Alive in the sense that we define life?

	Anti-bodies are just bits of protein produced by our immune
system.   They are not cells.   They are not alive,  They are just
chemicals.

>     They have a purpose and act according to certain criteria?  is this life?

	Not by my definitions, but that's another story....

>  Sorry if this is uneducated...just curious

	One cannot get educated without being curious enough to ask
questions.   Good job!

	-Hernan



More information about the Bioforum mailing list