Sunday, April 11, 2010

Not My Zygote: Part 1 of An Educational Series

Here we see the zygote (not mine! I don't know whose this is):
Not My Zygote
The egg nucleus and the sperm nucleus (whose-ever it is) are only just beginning to fuse! What an exciting moment. With the exchange of DNA we see happening at this very instant, this little round dude now contains all the makings of a whole new human being, but it's not mine. Not my new human being! I had nothing to do with it. I don't even know who this woman is, I never saw her. Or not woman, I guess, but egg.

I don't mean to depersonalize the whole being of a human female down into a single one of her reproductive cells!

Still, take a look at what's going on here. Even though this is Not My Zygote, I'm pretty proud of the job I did drawing it. Over there to the right, that's a mitochondria. Technically I'm not sure that's accurate, but it's the only cell structure I can really draw properly and damn if I was going to leave it out! Does a woman's egg actually have mitochondrions in it? I'd say "probably." After all, they have to come from someplace, and there's no room in the sperm!

The little squiggly things and dots represent...little squiggly things and dots. The zygote - the very first stage of human development - is rife with these.

I guess I have to cop to the sperm vs. egg nucleus colors, though. Pink for egg, blue for sperm, on the nuclear membrane? When in fact, of course they're about the same color! It's pretty obvious all I'm doing here is needlessly perpetuating gender stereotypes. Right at the very moment of conception! Which will probably lead to needless confusion and anxiety on gender issues later (as the artificial imposition of societal constructs always does, upon a young mind). So yeah. I have to cop to that, I guess, but there's kind of an artistic issue too! One that I think is valid. Because if the whole THING was pink, picture how that would look?!


Artistically, even in the most scientific drawings, sometimes you need to break it up a little. Add a little variety into the color palette, to create visual interest. If you think half your blood vessels are really red and the other half are really blue, you're in for a surprise if you ever get cut open wide enough for a good look-see!

This has been Not My Zygote: Part 1 of An Educational Series.


  1. I'm pretty sure the mitochondrion thingies must be in the egg. I mean mitrchondrial DNA comes from the mother right? I doubt she fires it in there later with a water gun or anything. Although I don't know. It's not MY zygote either so maybe she does?

    Gosh, how old are we that we don't know this? :)

  2. YES! You're 100% right - as soon as you said "mitochondrial DNA comes from the mother" I remembered, that's a stone-cold FACT. Genealogists have been taking advantage of that fact to use mitochondrial DNA to trace migratory patterns and link seemingly disparate genetic populations by the shared traits in their genome – little markers, insignificant mutations - that could only come through shared matrilineal descent.

    But I didn't remember it until you said!

    It's not that we don't know it, V.A., it's just that the information gets crowded out.

    Shoot. That's a lot of big words in there. I hope spell-check has got my back...I don't see any red squigglies!

    (except the ones in the zygote)