The San Diego Zoo Sperm Atlas was created in 2009 to display the diversity of sperm morphology in the Animal Kingdom. It is the first free online educational database of its kind. The database was made possible by the San Diego Zoo Reproductive Physiology division’s sperm morphology archive, which dates back to 1980. The Atlas displays two-dimensional sperm images and measurements ranging from creatures as large as the elephant to as small as the oyster. In an effort to expand the breadth of species highlighted, collaborators were asked to contribute images from species outside of our collection. The San Diego Zoo library created and maintains the web portal for this version of the Sperm Atlas. The vision for the Sperm Atlas is to create a tool for researchers, teachers, students, and those curious about biological diversity.
In 2013, collaboration was formed between our Reproductive Physiology division and Dr. Michael Berns at the Beckman Laser Institute and University of California, San Diego, in order to improve the Sperm Atlas images. Our team provides fixed sperm cells for imaging by Dr. Berns’ staff at the Beckman Laser Institute. Scanning electron photomicrographs produced by Dr. Berns and his staff provide a three-dimensional view of sperm cells. These images illustrate cellular structures in great detail and can aid researchers in understanding the role of unique morphological features in the processes of motility and fertilization.