Sexual characteristics  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sexual characteristics are physical or behavioral traits of an organism (typically of a sexually dimorphic organism) which are indicative of its biological sex. These can include sex organs used for reproduction, and secondary sex characteristics which distinguish the two sexes of a species, but which are not directly part of the reproductive system.



In humans, sex organs or primary sexual characteristics, which are those a person is born with, can be distinguished from secondary sex characteristics, which develop later in life, usually during puberty. The development of both is controlled by sex hormones produced by the body after the initial fetal stage where the presence or absence of the Y-chromosome and/or the SRY gene determine development.

Hormones that express sexual differentiation in humans include:

Typical sexual characteristics

The following table lists the widely accepted sexual characteristics in humans:

Humans whose sexual characteristics are ambiguous or mismatched are called intersex.

Invertebrates and plants

In invertebrates and plants, hermaphrodites (which have both male and female sexual characteristics either at the same time or during their life cycle) are common, and in many cases, the norm.

In other varieties of multicellular life (e.g. the fungi division, Basidiomycota) sexual characteristics can be much more complex, and may involve many more than two sexes. For details on the sexual characteristics of fungi, see: Hypha and Plasmogamy.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Sexual characteristics" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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