Sequential hermaphroditism is common in fish (particularly teleost fish) and some jellyfish, many gastropods (such as the common slipper shell), and some flowering plants.While some sequential hermaphrodites can change sex multiple times, most can only change sex once.

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Hermaphroditism is also found in some fish species and to a lesser degree in other vertebrates. Historically, the term hermaphrodite has also been used to describe ambiguous genitalia and gonadal mosaicism in individuals of gonochoristic species, especially human beings.

The word intersex has come into preferred usage for humans, since the word hermaphrodite is considered to be misleading and stigmatizing, Since the estimated total number of animal species is 8.6 million, the percentage of animal species that are hermaphroditic is about 0.7%.

When spotted hyenas were first discovered by explorers, they were thought to be hermaphrodites.

Early observations of spotted hyenas in the wild led researchers to believe that all spotted hyenas, male and female, were born with what appeared to be a penis.

According to Ovid, he fused with the nymph Salmacis resulting in one individual possessing physical traits of male and female sexes; Alexander ab Alexandro stated, using the term hermaphrodite, that the people who bore the sexes of both man and woman were regarded by the Athenians and the Romans as monsters, and thrown into the sea at Athens and into the Tiber at Rome.

This contrasts simultaneous hermaphrodites, in which an individual may possess fully functional male and female gonads.

Aside from having an ambiguous-looking external genitalia, true intersex in humans differs from pseudohermaphroditism in that the person's karyotype has both XX and XY chromosome pairs (46XX/46XY, 46XX/47XXY or 45X/XY mosaic).

Some people who are intersex have both testicular and ovarian tissue.

Intersex is thought by some to be caused by unusual sex hormones; the unusual hormones may be caused by an atypical set of sex chromosomes.

Sigmund Freud (based on work by his associate Wilhelm Fliess) held fetal hermaphroditism to be a fact of the physiological development of humans.

which states that if an individual of a certain sex could significantly increase its reproductive success after reaching a certain size, it would be to their advantage to switch to that sex.