Study Guide

Animal Reproduction

Animal Reproduction Introduction

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).

Animal Reproduction Resources

Websites

Zooborns
The newest, cutest baby animals from the world's accredited zoos and aquariums. Challenge: set this as your home page and try not to spend hours on the site everyday.

Videos

Salmon Spawning
Check out fish reproduction.

Wolf Love
Check out wolf mating.

Gecko Love
Check out gecko mating.

But, why?
It's so much easier to just use your energy to find food. Why do animals go through all the trouble of trying to reproduce? (Besides trying to create adorable baby animals). This PBS documentary attempts to answer the question "Why sex?"

Dinosaur Love
Did you ever wonder how dinosaurs did the deed? The discovery channel’s "Tyrannosaurus Sex" teaches about dinosaur mating.

Birth Control and Animals
Dr. Carin Bondar discusses animal prostitution and birth control. No, seriously.

Birds and Bees: How They Work
For everything we know about anatomy, we still do not know some of the basics like how the mammalian erection works. Diane Kelly tries to help us out.

Articles

Read All About Animal Reproduction
Livescience has a plethora of articles about animal sex. It would be unjust for you to read just one.

Podcasts

Hear About Sperm Here
Sperm! A podcast where they hail the gametes of males (including sperm whales).