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Getting down to it with sperm and eggs
At around 120μm (that’s 120 micrometres, or 0.12 millimetres) wide, the human ovum, also known as an oocyte, is large enough to be seen with the naked eye by someone with good eyesight.
This means that the ovum has roughly 10 times the volume of our next largest cells, fat cells, according to the book Cell Biology by the Numbers. So the egg really is the largest human cell, but what about the sperm?
The BBC calls the sperm cell “the smallest cell in human biology”. It is useful to know how this is measured.
This interactive graphic from the University of Utah’s genetic science learning centre gives a good idea of the scale of cells and microorganisms. You will notice that the egg dwarfs sperm, skin, and red blood cells. Except the 60µm long sperm cell may seem larger than the 8µm wide red blood cell. How is it that the sperm can be considered “smaller”?
The answer lies in their volume. As seen in this graphic from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the long tail of a sperm cell is barely more than 0.5µm wide!
Even at 60µm long this means that the sperm cell has a lesser volume, or takes up less space than the average red blood cell. – Keegan Leech
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