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Will Waterman

Online Lab Major Topic 1 Unit 4

Human Biology – Larry Frolich

10 Interesting Things noted During Fetal Development

1. Many try and only one succeeds: The sperm and egg make a zygote

Okay, so the first significant event that takes place during fetal development (well, this is
not technically fetal development yet) is that one sperm fertilizes the egg! Out of 400
million sperm produced per day, or however many are produced in a single day (I read
conflicting numbers), only one of these microscopic sperm enters the egg. In addition to
the wonder of this fact, it is fascinating the egg is genetically programmed to shut off its
membrane to outsiders (the Zona Pellucida) once a sperm has entered it. Its absolutely
fascinating what goes on during this fertilization period. First, the sperm binds tightly to
the zona pellucida and the acrosome (the head of the sperm) releases digestive enzymes
that forge a pathway. Then once the nuclei have joined (the sperm and the egg) the
membrane of the egg depolarizes and prevents the binding of any other sperm. How


2. How does the embryo know to implant itself in the uterine lining?

By the second week, after fertilization has occurred, the embryo implants itself on the
wall of the uterus. How does a simple multi-cell structure (composed of very few cells at
this point) know to implant itself on the uterine wall? This morula, as it’s called, flows
down the oviduct and implants in a specific location in order to grow. It is fascinating that
this simple cell-structure “knows” to do this. Of course, sometimes this does not go as
planned, and the embryo implants itself in the oviduct and causes a serious problem
called an ectopic pregnancy.

3. The Creation of the Embryonic Disk

The creation of the embryonic disk seems remarkable in that this small cavity –
containing the yolk sac, the disk, and the amniotic cavity – becomes a complex system of
nutrient, oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. The disk is most fascinating because it
becomes a complex human. At approximately 18 days (Mader) the embryonic disk is


4. The Umbilical Cord Forms

As the embryo matures to around the 35-day mark, the umbilical cord forms from the
“body stalk” and becomes the “life-line” of the fetus. The embryonic disk, at this point,
has a “head region” and a “tail region.” Fascinating that all of us started out as a mass of
cells that quickly mold a complex human being.
5. We all begin as Germ Layers!

Very significant when the germ layers form and the three main systems of the human
body begin as such simple things! These germ layers begin to, sort of, show how the
main human-body systems are organized: the ectoderm is the CNS and PNS, the
mesoderm is the skeletal and muscle system, and the endoderm are the main organs
digestive organs. They all started as “germ layers.” This happens at around 21 days.

6. Fascinating when the fetus takes shape and the heart starts pumping!

When the fetus actually begins to take a “primordial” living shape, with limb buds, optic
vesicles, a brain, a heart, and a liver, the fetus is such an interesting formation. It is
interesting to think that our limbs began as limb buds and form from there. It’s also very
interesting when the heart starts beating, even though the chambers of the heart are not
fully formed. This happens at around the third week.

7. The skull remains flexible to allow easier passage through the birth canal

A fascinating acquired evolutionary trait to allow easier birth; the head remains flexible!
The fontanels permit “flexibility” as the head passes through the birth canal. This also
allows the brain to grow. Very interesting. This happens around the hird and fourth

8. The development of the male and female genitals

First of all, it’s very interesting that slight changes in genetics make very large changes in
appearance. It’s also very interesting that the genitals start out as the same for a male and
female during the first several weeks of development. Scientists call this tissue as
“indifferent.” However, genetics ultimately decide whether Testosterone is produced or
whether Estrogen is produced, which eventually form the respective gonads.

9. Lanugo protects

An interesting fetal protective mechanism is the Lanugo (the fine down and cheese-like
protective layer). This is hypothesized to protect the delicate skin from the amniotic fluid.

10. The Placenta!

It is so very interesting that the placenta forms from the same cells as the human being.
Talk about the ultimate teddy bear! This is the connect between mother and child. It’s
also very interesting that the cervix “knows” to contract and expel this necessity when no
longer necessary. Interesting!