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external organ

Intromittent organ

An intromittent organ is a general term for an external organ of a male organism that is specialized to deliver sperm during copulation. Intromittent organs are usually found in terrestrial species, as most aquatic species fertilize their eggs externally, although there are exceptions.

Species with intromittent organs


In male members of Chondrichthyes (sharks and rays), as well as now-extinct placoderms, the pelvic fins bear specialized claspers. During copulation, one clasper is inserted into the female's cloaca, and sperm is flushed by the male's body through a groove into the female.

Members of Poeciliidae are small fishes that give birth to live young. In males, the anal fin is shaped into a grooved, rod-shaped organ called a gonopodium used to deliver sperm to females.


In lizards and snakes, males possess paired hemipenes, each of which is usually grooved to allow sperm transport and spiny or rough at the tip to allow firm attachment to the female. To become erect, a hemipenis is evaginated (turned inside out) through muscle action and engorgement with blood. Only one is inserted into the female's cloaca at a time.

In some turtles, crocodiles, some birds, and mammals, males possess a penis centered along the midline of the body. During copulation it becomes erect due to engorgement with blood or lymph. When not in use, it is usually flaccid, and depending on the species, may be retracted into the body. The anatomy of the penis varies according to species.

Male ostriches have a conical shaped penis that is wider at the base. Male ducks have a penis that is coiled along the ventral wall of the cloaca when flaccid and which may have an elaborate spiral shape when erect.

All male mammals have a penis. Insectivores, bats, rodents, carnivorans, and most primates (but not humans) have a bone called the baculum or os penis that permanently stiffens the penis. During copulation, blood engorges the already-stiff penis resulting in a full erection.


  • Kardong, Kenneth V. (1995). Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Publishers. ISBN 0069219917.
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