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Human sperm don't wiggle, but roll like 'playful otters' as they swim, study says

July 31, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

For more than 340 years, science believed a man's sperm wiggled its way to its prize, much like a snake slithering side to side through water. Now, a new study says that movement was an optical illusion.

As scientists over the centuries continued to look down from above in their microscopes, there's no doubt of what their eyes saw and recorded on film: Sperm swim by moving their tails from side to side.

Our new research using 3D microscopy shows that we have all been victims of a sperm deception," said study author Hermes Gadelha, head of the Polymaths Laboratory at the University of Bristol's department of engineering mathematics in the UK.

So it's almost like you needed to make a (camera) really tiny and stick it to the head of the sperm," Gadelha said.

That one-sided stroke should cause the sperm to swim in a perpetual circle, Gadelha said.

"Human sperm figured out if they roll as they swim, much like playful otters corkscrewing through water, their one-sided stroke would average itself out, and they would swim forwards," said Gadelha, who is an expert in the mathematics of fertility.

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