We're told that the four Andorian sexes roughly correspond to two male sexes and two female sexes, but that they aren't literally male or female.
As I understand the Andorian reproductive process, the thaan and chan each contribute a gamete containing 1/4 of the eventual child's genetic material, the shen contributes the largest gamete, and egg, containing 1/2 of the eventual child's genetic material, and the zhen contributes no genetic material, but carries the zygote/embryo/fetus to term.
I find this slightly confusing. Biologically speaking, "female" is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces ova (eggs), which are in turn defined as the largest gametes produced by the species. By this definition, a shen would be unequivocally female.
Further, "male", biologically speaking, is defined as an organism (or a part of an organism, where an organism is hermaphroditic) that produces smaller gametes than the ova of its species. By this definition, the thaan and chan would be unequivocally male.
The poor zhen is unaccounted for.
What I find confusing is the contention that a shen is only roughly female, and that thaans and chans are only roughly male. It doesn't seem to add up, unless something radically different is going on with Andorian reproduction than we've been led to believe.
I do not know how "male" and "female" are described, so I can't be much help there. However, I'm pretty sure all four sexes contribute genetic material. The shen
produces an "egg", if I remember correctly, and then the chan
both add their genetic material (I assume they both have a penis or similar organ), then the shen
transfers the "egg" somehow to the zhen
, who adds her material and carries the child to term. She also produces zhiassa
- milk- to nourish it after birth. I'm guessing mammalian standards are being applied, not necesarilly scientific definitions?. I assume shens
do not produce milk (hence the zh beginning their word for milk-equivalent, it's a zhen
thing), and so may not have breasts. Zhens
don't produce ova, so no problem there, but as for shens
also not being female, maybe its just layman-human refusal to see a non-breasted furry-and-warm-blooded-looks-mammalian being as female, technical stuff aside? You know, mammalian biases? Or is it chromosomes? For the two "males", I'm guessing its chromosomes that prevent them being labelled male? Do "male" and "female" only apply to organisms with paired chromosomes? Biology is not my strongest subject...
Any help from someone who does know?