Without the reproductive system, the human species could not survive. However, this system, unlike other organ systems, is not necessary for the survival of individual humans. The reproductive system controls the development of the structural and functional differences between males and females, and it influences human behavior. Most organ systems of the body show little difference between males and females. This isn't the case with the reproductive systems. The male reproductive system produces sperm cells and can transfer them to the female. The female reproductive system produces oocytes and can receive sperm cells, one of which may unite with an oocyte. The female reproductive system is then intimately involved with nurturing the development of a new individual until birth and usually for some considerable time after birth.
Although the male and female reproductive systems show such striking differences, they also share a number of similarities. Many reproductive organs of males and females are derived from the same embryologic structures (see chapter 29). In addition, some hormones are the same in males and females, even though they act in very different ways (table 28.1).
This chapter discusses the anatomy of the male reproductive system (p. 1035), the physiology of male reproduction (p. 1046), the anatomy of the female reproductive system (p. 1050), the physiology of female reproduction (p. 1059), and the effects of aging on the reproductive system (p. 1071).