Once the sperm enters the vagina, the real battle begins. The vagina is highly acidic, an environment in which sperm can only survive 2~3 hours. It is crucial for the sperm to enter the uterus through the cervix, but only 1% of the 200~300 million sperm make it through.
Even within the uterus, they must brace harsh conditions as they travel against gravity. After about 5 hours of intense swimming, the sperm reach the top of the uterus. Here they face a choice: go left or go right. Half the sperm make the wrong choice and head down the eggless fallopian tube and ultimately die. The rest navigate their way through the maze of folds in the fallopian tube, often getting lost or sticking to the wall thinking that it is an egg.
About 200 sperm finally make it to the egg, which sits in the ampulla of the fallopian tube. But as always, there is competition even at this final moment. Only one sperm can win the race, and the fastest one will ultimately produce a new life.
When the first sperm touches the egg, a series of chemical reactions occur, essentially “priming” the sperm. This causes it to start the acrosome reaction, where it releases a hoard of enzymes from its head, digesting away the covering shell (zona pellucida) of the egg. It then becomes supercharged, using all of its energy to drive itself inwards until it reaches the oocyte within. As soon as this happens, the tail breaks off, and one final chemical reaction as the calcium level spikes occurs to release more enzymes that prevent the acrosome reaction in other sperm. It also solidifies the zona, forming an impenetrable shield to prevent other sperm coming in (polyspermy can lead to a failed pregnancy).
The calcium spike that causes the above cortical reaction also triggers the egg to divide, so that it reaches the most mature stage. The winning sperm can then combine its nucleus with the oocyte, forming the 46 chromosomes that will set the genetic basis of the new zygote (first stage of a baby).
To reach the egg, the sperm must travel over 20cm – beating its tail over 20,000 times. The probability that a certain sperm will fertilise the egg is 1 in 500,000,000.
Life starts under a near-zero probability condition.
(Full series here: https://jineralknowledge.com/tag/arkrepro/?order=asc)