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Tiny Cells (RBCs/Tiny Sperm)

by Greg Crowther


One of the bedrock principles of anatomy and physiology is that structure (anatomy) and function (physiology) are closely related. At the cellular level, this relationship is illustrated well by cells that are highly specialized for carrying out very specific functions. Depending on one's learning goals, this song can excerpted to cover just red blood cells (RBCs) or just sperm, or the whole thing can be used to cover both. Please note that the "sperm version" is not intended to marginalize non-binary genders or non-heterosexual orientations; see study question #3 below.


["Mystery verse" that could apply to RBCs or sperm]
They're smaller and they're simpler than a standard textbook eukaryotic cell.
Their functions are so specialized, they only need a small array of proteins.
To minimize their size, they will get by without a bunch of organelles.
The nutrients they need can be collected from the stream in which they're floating.

[RBC chorus]
RBCs (RBCs, everywhere they go to)
RBCs (RBCs carry lots of O2)
RBCs (That's the sink that electrons flow to)
RBCs (RBCs, RBCs).

[Sperm verse]
Its head contains a nucleus which holds a haploid set of DNA.
Its midpiece mitochondria produce the ATP that keep it goin'.
Its tail is a flagellum which propels it toward its target far away.
It's just a little gamete that we sometimes like to call "spermatozoon."

[Sperm chorus]
Tiny sperm (tiny sperm, suited well for swimmin').
Tiny sperm (tiny sperm, finding eggs in women).
Tiny sperm (acrosome enzymes do some trimmin').
Tiny sperm (tiny sperm, tiny sperm).

Other Files


MP3 of "Tiny Sperm" (by Rice & Reidy)

music video of "Tiny Sperm"

sheet music (with melody play-back)

Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) illustrating it with pictures, bodily poses, and/or bodily movements. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Study Questions

(1) The lyrics refer to a lack of organelles in these cells. Do mature RBCs or mature sperm have any organelles?

(2) What are the "streams" in which RBCs and sperm are floating?

(3) A task of sperm is, according to the lyrics, "finding eggs in women." If not constrained by rhyme and meter, what (if anything) would you change about this phrase?

(4) What is meant by the phrase "acrosome enzymes do some trimmin'"?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)