Breasticles and Testicles

May 10, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

We have a number of organs that don’t appear to serve a necessary function anymore (known as “vestigial organs”). Take the appendix for example: although it may repopulate the gut with bacteria, take it out and you’ll be totally fine. As another example, look at nipples on males: they don’t breast feed their babies, so what are they there for? Well, now that you mention it, maybe that could be arranged

Even though men and women have different sex organs and secondary sex characteristics, during the development of the embryo we all start off the same. To put it simply, the hormones specific to Y chromosome directs the development of male sex organs, while the default developmental fate is female in the absence of the Y-chromosome or when the male developmental genes are mutated. (This is, of course, ignoring the complexities in development, and the development of individuals who are “intersex”, meaning they somewhere along a continuum of what is physiologically male versus female).


richard sharpe, eva gusnowski, science in seconds

Richard Sharpe.

The involvement of hormones in development means that they can be manipulated. This is why some transsexual individuals decide (after counseling) to take hormones that direct the development of the opposite sex in order to develop the sexual characteristics of the desired gender (i.e. physiological women who desire to become more masculine and take on male sexual characteristics can take testosterone supplements, whereas physiological men who desire to become more feminized and take on female sexual characteristics can take estrogen).

The development of breasts on males after taking estrogen or other compounds is now a well-described phenomenon. Men still have the necessary “plumbing” in the breasts to produce milk; they just lack the right hormone levels that normally initiate milk production in women.


fruit bat, male lactation, science in seconds

Male fruit bats have been found to produce milk in the wild, albeit at much lower quantities than their female counterparts. And some human men have expressed interest in producing milk for their own babies, so that they can experience breast-feeding. Now, before some of you start to get nervous or go running to your doctor, messing around with hormone levels can be dangerous and is not likely to be a recommended practice from your physician when you are healthy.

So guys, even though you can turn them on, maybe milk from Safeway is your safest bet.


manary gland, science in seconds

The manary gland.



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