21.3 Differentiation of the gonads

Descent of the testes


Quiz 23

Between the 3rd month of pregnancy and its end the testes become transferred from the lumbar area (ventro-medial to the mesonephros) into the future scrotum. This transfer is due to a combination of growth processes and hormonal influences (7). The gubernaculum testis also plays a decisive role in this phenomenon.

The gubernaculum testis arises in the course of the 7th week from the lower gubernaculum, after the mesonephros has atrophied. Cranially it has its origin at the testis and inserts in the region of the genital swelling (future scrotum).
At the same time, at the inguinal canal along the lower gubernaculum, an evagination of the peritoneum arises, the vaginal process, on which the testes will slide through the inguinal canal.

Fig. 20 - Descent of the testis
ca. 2 months
Fig. 21 - Descent of the testis
ca. 3 months

Fig. 20
The yellow arrow shows the location of the protrusion of the peritoneum and the beginning of the testicular descent into the inguinal canal.

Fig. 21
In this diagram, the beginning of the formation of the vaginal process is visible. It enters with the testis into the inguinal canal. Shown in blue is the gubernaculum that becomes increasingly shorter.

Fig. 22 - Descent of the testis
ca. 7 months
Fig. 23 - Descent of the testis
ca. 9 months

Gubernaculum testis
Inguinal canal

Peritoneal cavity
Deferent duct

Fig. 22
Between the 3rd and 7th month of pregnancy the testes remain near the inguinal canal in order to pass through it. The vaginal process lengthens while the gubernaculum shortens, thereby drawing the testis, the deferent duct and its vessels on both sides downwards.

Fig. 23
In the 9th month of pregnancy (but also sometimes only after birth) the testes reach the scrotum. The vaginal process forms now a serous bilaminar structure on the front side of the testis.

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Illustration B

In that the vaginal process lengthens downwardly, it takes the muscle fibers of the oblique internal muscle and the transverse muscle with it.

The muscle fascia of the transverse muscle is the innermost layer and in the scrotal region, it forms the internal spermatic fascia of the spermatic cord and the scrotum.

The muscle layer of the musculus cremaster is formed from fibers of the oblique internal and transverse muscles.

Externally, the external spermatic fascia is formed from the superficial aponeurosis of the oblique external abdominal muscle.
Fig. 24 - Section through the scrotum
at the time of birth according to A




Dermis (tunica dartos)
External spermatic fascia
Musculus cremaster
Internal spermatic fascia
Parietal lamina of the tunica vaginalis
Virtual cavity between the two
layers of the tunica vaginalis
Visceral lamina of the tunica
Tunica albuginea
Interlobular septum of the testis

Fig. 24
Detail of the various layers that have formed in the scrotum by the end of the pregnancy.

The region, where the testes pass through the abdominal wall, is called the inguinal canal.

Between the 7th and the 12th week the gubernaculum shortens and pulls the testes, the deferent duct and its vessels downwards.
Between the 3rd and 7th month the testes stay in the area of the inguinal canal so they can enter into it. They reach the scrotum at roughly the time of birth under the influence of the androgen hormone.


Descent of the testes

While in the first year of life the upper part of the vaginal process becomes obliterated, there remains only the peritoneo-vaginal ligament. The lower portion persists as the tunica vaginalis testis, which consists of a parietal and a visceral layer.

The migration anomalies of the testes will be treated in the pathology chapter.

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