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Animal Reproduction Introduction

In A Nutshell

Puppies! Need we say more? Baby animals are in their own category of cuteness. In fact, we tried to get kittens added to the vending machines here at Shmoop (safely, of course), but it didn't work out.

As it turns out, a lot of work goes into each and every baby animal.

To truly appreciate the warm snuggle of a puppy, we think you should understand a bit more about how it came to be. After all, it is the same way that you came to be. Humans are animals, too.

Animal reproduction is super fascinating. Unfortunately, it is often super complex. Luckily, we have broken it down into six stellar sections.

1) Basics of reproduction: Nearly all animals feel the urge to reproduce, and since all animals are mortal this is a good instinct to have. It preserves the species and puts another branch on the old family tree. There are two types of reproduction: asexual and sexual. Most animals use sexual reproduction, and Shmoop is not afraid to get a little sexy.

2) Gametes: Sperm and eggs are the cornerstones of sexual reproduction. They are called gametes, and animals spend a lot of time and energy making them. They need to be ready for the moment when they can combine gametes with their dream partner.

3) Courtship: Of course, before this can happen they have to meet the partner of their dreams. As many of us know, this can be quite a tricky process. Many animals spend a lot of time trying to woo their future partner with things like collections of garbage (bower birds) or a nice spray of feces (hippos).

4) Fertilization: If all goes well after a romantic dinner, the partners can release their gametes near each other. The gametes can either meet out in the environment or inside the mother's body. The moment when sperm and egg finally meet is called fertilization.

5) Embryo development: Shortly after fertilization, the zygote then begins to develop. This can happen in an egg or inside the mother. Embryo development is a very complex series of events. It is even more complex than baseball's infield fly rule.

6) Birth: Eventually, the embryo completes development and either hatches from its egg or is ejected from its mother. After birth, sometimes there is further development and then the cycle of life can continue (this is not to be confused with the circle of life where the animals eat each other).

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