Study shows sperm doesn’t swim like an eel, more like “playful otters”

It seems that everyone has been wondering about how sperm actually moves around once it’s been, uh, released, because further studies have revealed that it doesn’t exactly swim like an eel.

Described as corkscrewing like “playful otters,” sperm apparently does not swim in a streamline, but moves in circular motions so that the tail can create enough force to propel itself to its destination.


A new study has found that sperm doesn’t swim like eels but “playful otters” that spiral in corkscrews to move toward its final destination.

Just to give a quick biology lesson, sperm is made up of a head, body and tail. The head holds the nucleus and acrosome which functions as a house for the genetic composition a penis-haver gives the embryo. The body, otherwise known as the mitochondrian (the powerhouse of the cell) is shaped like a tube, which gives the sperm the power and force to make its movements and renders the tail a mere puppet to the mitochondria.

As it turns out, the tubular shape of the body and tail needs to move in circular motions to accrue the speed necessary to reach its final destination.

According to Dr. Hermes Gadelha from the University of Bristol, this is because “human sperm figured out if they roll as they swim, much like playful otters corkscrewing through water, their one-sided stoke would average itself out, and they would swim forwards.” 

The origins of sperm swimming like eels was apparently a result of their “rapid and highly synchronised spinning” which “causes an illusion when seen from above with 2D microscopes – the tail appears to have a side-to-side symmetric movement, ‘like eels in water.'”

With this new knowledge, it seems that sperm could finally get the recognition that it deserves: it’s faster and more elegant than we originally thought.