They Come in Seven Sexes
An old wing of the university
housed the laboratory.
She passed through a narrow corridor
oozing the autumn moisture
of the morning rain.
She put on a white polyester coat,
adjusted her seat and then
placed the Tetrahymena
under the microscope.
“What are you doing? ”
asked suddenly a baritone voice.
Ruth looked up surprised
and saw Tom, a doctoral student
of anatomy, standing next to her.
“Oh, I do some research
on this tiny critter”, she said.
It is a single-celled animal
from the Protozoa family,
called Tetrahymena, a biologist’s
“How can you be interested in
such a primitive creature? ” Tom asked.
“It must be a very boring object
“On the contrary.
This miniscule organism
is a fascinating creature
possessing astonishing attributes.
To insiders it offers more poetry
than your brain could imagine.”
“And why is that? ” Tom said.
His face wore a skeptical countenance.
“Well, mind you, in the 1950s
scientists discovered that
in many ways the battle of genders
among these cilia covered
little critters is far more complex
than among humans.”
“This is hard to believe”, Tom said.
“Yes, indeed. But imagine
that the Tetrahymena has
seven sexes to choose from.”
“You must be kidding.”
“Not at all. This is an established
scientific fact”, Ruth said.
“And the amazing story of
the Tetrahymena does not end
or start with the mystery of sex,
because this Lilliputian animal
also provides us with
compelling evidence about
the unity of all life on this planet.”
“And how is that? ”
“All life forms on Earth,
Including flowers, trees, amoebas,
Jellyfish, birds, tigers and you,
share a common setup:
They all combine amino acids
to make proteins and store
genetic information by using
deoxyribonucleic acid, DNA
molecules in encoding
the universal genetic code
by the same amino acids.”
“This leaves me quite indifferent”,
said Tom with a grin.
“I would get more excited if you
had informed me, for example,
that your critter can laugh and cry.”
“Well, as a matter of fact
perhaps it can. After all,
the Tetrahymena produces insulin,
acetylcholine, and endorphins,
as well as other neuropeptides
that we humans have
In our bodies. Thus, this primitive
and we humans
share the same
Now, bear in mind,
information exchange through
occur in similar ways
in all living organisms by means
of electrochemical processes,
by molecules of emotion.
that this one-celled critter,
similarly to us, also can be sad,
or excited and happy.'
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
For further reading:
1. Kathleen Collins, Editor, “Tetrahymena Thermophila”, Volume 109 (Methods in Cell Biology) , Academic Press,2012
2. Candace B. Pert, PhD, “Molecules of Emotion”, New York: Touchstone,1999
Comments about this poem (They Come in Seven Sexes by Paul Hartal )
Still I Rise
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936)
(13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- Alone, Edgar Allan Poe
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- On the Ning Nang Nong, Spike Milligan
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe