Reproduction refers to the process via which plants and animals produce offspring by sexual or asexual process. This paper looks at the sexual reproduction of corn and humans in the articles, “Corn Sex”, and “The Egg and Sperm” respectively, and provides a connection between the two articles.
The article “Corn Sex” talks about the sex life of corn, how the kernel is formed, as well as human involvement in corn hybridization. Maize reproduces via self-fertilization and wind-pollination (Comley 467). Its male organs contain several anthers which produce abundant powdery yellow pollen i.e. 14 to 18 million grains per plant. A short distance below is the female organ which contains “the flowers which are arranged in tidy rows along a tiny, sheathed cob” (Comley 468). All the 400 to 800 flowers on the cob have the ability to develop into a kernel on condition that a pollen grain travels to the ovary. When the pollen grain arrives at the tip of the style, “its nucleus divides into two, forming a pair of twins with similar gene sets, but different roles to play in the kernel creation” (Comley 468). The first twin channels a microscopic tube downhill via the middle of the silk thread to the flower. Upon arrival into the flower, the second twin combines with the egg to form the embryo. The first twin then enters the fertilized flower and begins to form the endosperm, which is the starchy piece of the kernel. Approximately 50 days afterwards, the kernel is mature for consumption.
The article, “Egg and Sperm” compares the egg and the sperm with regard to their production and roles. The male and female reproductive organs are the systems where eggs and sperms are formed. A woman’s menstruation cycle is designed to produce an egg which is to be fertilized to form an embryo. However, because menstruation sheds the unfertilized egg in form of blood, the process is seen as a failure because it wastes eggs. A major difference between the sperm and the egg is in their magnitude as evident in this sentence, “Whereas the female sheds only a single gamete each month, the seminiferous tubules produce hundreds of millions of sperm each day” (Comley 473). Spermatogenesis is viewed as superior because it is a continuous process from teenage years to senescence, while egg production is seen as inferior and wasteful because it ends at the birth of a female. This is because when a female child is born, the ovarian follicles which contains the ova are already there (Comley 474) and they gradually degenerate with “only a few of them, possibly 400, are designed to attain full maturity in the course of her active productive life” (Comley 474). There are about one million follicles in the ovary when a female child is born, and no new ones appear afterwards. While the female’s germ cells are already piled at birth, the male produces fresh germ cells continuously. Another difference is the fact that the egg is huge and passive i.e. it is immobile and is passively transported (Comley 475), while the sperm is small and very active. The sperm’s mission is to, “penetrate and fertilize the egg and produce the embryo” (Comley 480).
The egg has been culturally perceived as a passive cell with an impenetrable barrier called the zona, which the sperm has managed to overcome “by mechanically burrowing through, thrashing their tails and slowly working their way along” (Comley 476). However, the latest research has revealed that the mechanical force of the sperm’s tail is so weak that it cannot break any bond; therefore, it is the digestive enzymes released by the sperm that chemically breaks down the zona, softening it to allow the sperm to penetrate the egg. Unlike before when the egg was perceived as a passive cell, the new research has given the egg a more active role because its zona which is covered with adhesive molecules can catch a sperm with just one connection. With the new discovery in the active role of the egg, a cultural stereotype has emerged, of a woman being a dangerous threat who oppresses men. This perhaps explains why there is widespread Western literature concerning females victimizing their male counterparts (Comley 481).
There is a connection between the two articles above because they both talk about sexual reproduction. While “Corn Sex” talks about plant reproduction, Sperm and Egg” on the other hand, talks about human reproduction. It is worth noting the significant amount of male gametes produced by both plants and men to ensure successful fertilization i.e. a single maize plant produces about 14 to 18 million pollen grains while a man produces hundreds of millions of sperms daily (Comley 467). This is in contrast to the single female egg that is produced and fertilized in both cases. Another important thing to note about the two articles is the active role played by the male gametes during reproduction in both corn and humans. In both cases, the flower and the eggs of the female plant and human being are presented as very passive, waiting to be fertilized. The pollen and sperms are however, very actively involved in the reproduction process, playing the role of fertilizing the female gametes. This shows just how culture has influenced biological processes whether in plants, animals or humans. It is culturally believed that males are superior to females, and so are their roles not only in reproduction but in other life aspects.
In conclusion, sexual reproduction in corn and humans has a lot of similarities. For instance, the active role played by the males in the reproduction process, as well as the abundant male gametes produced by male plants and humans for the purpose of reproduction. I expect that the cultural perception of females as the passive partners will change with time without stereotyping them as being aggressive to the males.