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At the time of ejaculation, the contents of the seminal vesicles are emptied into the ejaculatory ducts. This action greatly increases the volume of fluid that is discharged by the vas deferens. Urethra The urethra is an important organ of both the urinary and reproductive systems. The role of the urethra, in the reproductive system, is to transport sperm through the penis to outside the body. See “The Urinary System” section for information on the structure of the urethra. Prostate Gland The prostate gland, made of smooth muscle and glandular tissue, surrounds the first part of the urethra. It resembles a chestnut in shape and size, and secretes an alkaline fluid to keep the sperm mobile, protecting it from the acid secretions of the female vagina. This substance is discharged into the urethra as part of the ejaculate, or semen, during the sexual act. Bulbourethral Glands Bulbourethral glands, also known as Cowper's glands, are two pea-sized bodies located below the prostate gland and lateral to the membranous urethra. These glands are enclosed by fibers of the external urethral sphincter. They release a mucous-like fluid in response to sexual stimulation and provide lubrication to the end of the penis in preparation for sexual intercourse. Semen Semen is composed of sperm and secretions from the seminal vesicles, prostate, and bulbourethral glands. It is discharged as the ejaculate during sexual intercourse. There are millions of sperm cells in the semen of each ejaculation, but only one is needed to fertilize the ovum. It is generally considered that fertilization of the ovum occurs while it is still in the fallopian tubes. Therefore, it is apparent that sperm cells can move actively in the seminal fluid deposited in the vagina and through the layers of the secretion lining the uterus and fallopian tubes. EXTERNAL ACCESSORY ORGANS The external accessory organs of the male reproductive system include the scrotum and penis (fig. 1-60). Scrotum The scrotum is a cutaneous pouch containing the testes and part of the spermatic cord. Immediately beneath the skin is a thin layer of muscular fibers (the cremaster), which is controlled by temperature and contracts or relaxes to lower or raise the testes in relation to the body. This muscular activity of the scrotum is necessary to regulate the temperature of the testes, which is important in the maturation of sperm cells. Penis The penis is a cylindrical organ that conveys urine and semen through the urethra to the outside. The penis is composed of three columns of spongy cavernous tissue, bound together by connective tissue and loosely covered by a layer of skin. Two of the columns, the corpora cavernosa, lie superiorly side by side; the third column, the corpus spongiosum, lies below the other two columns. The urethra is located in the corpus spongiosum. The dilated distal end of the corpus spongiosum is known as the glans penis (fig. 1-60). The urethra terminates at the glans penis. The cavernous tissue becomes greatly distended with blood during sexual excitement, causing an erection of the penis. The loose skin of the penis folds back on itself at the distal end (forming the prepuce, or foreskin) and covers the glans. The prepuce is sometimes removed by a surgical procedure called a circumcision. FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM LEARNING OBJECTIVERecall the parts of the female reproductive system and their function(s). The organs of the female reproductive system are specialized to produce and maintain the female sex cells, or egg cells; to transport these cells to the site of fertilization; to provide an environment for a developing offspring; to move the offspring outside; and to produce female sex hormones. The primary female reproductive organs are the ovaries. The other structures of the female reproductive system are considered accessory reproductive organs. The 1-59


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