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Mitosis and meiosis compared

It's really important that you don't get meiosis and mitosis confused! Take some
time to look at the table below and make sure you understand all the differences between
the two types of cell division.

Mitosis Meiosis
To make daughter cells
identical to the parent
Purpose To produce sex cells (gametes)
cells - eg during
growth and repair
In all cells apart from In the reproductive organs
Takes place ..
gametes (ovaries and testes)
Produces how many
Two daughter cells Four gametes
Half as many as in parent cell
What happens to (The original number of
Same number as in
number of chromosomes is restored when
parent cell
chromosomes? two gametes fuse to form a
How do parent and Not at all - genetic Contain a mixture of
daughter cells differ material is copied chromosomes from two parent
genetically? exactly (replicated) gametes - so cannot be identical
Yes - they are genetically
Variation between No - they are clones of different from each other
daughter cells? each other because chromosomes get
shuffled up during division


A human body cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. The gametes - sperm or

eggs - contain half this number of chromosomes, which is why meiosis is
sometimes called 'reduction division'. (For more on chromosomes go to DNA and
 Before meiosis begins, the chromosomes are copied exactly. The DNA of
each chromosome is replicated to form two chromatids. They then arrange
themselves into homologous pairs (both coding for the same
characteristics), and prepare for cell division. At this point maternal and
paternal chromatids can exchange bits of DNA to recombine their genetic
material and increase the potential for variation.

 The homologous pairs of chromosomes then separate and move to the

poles of the parent nucleus. For each of the 23 pairs there is a 50-50
chance as to which pole the paternal or maternal pair of chromatids go.
With over 8 million possibilities there are many opportunities for variation.
 The nucleus now divides to form two daughter nuclei, each with a mixture
of paternal and maternal chromosomes but with half the full complement
of genetic material (and no pairs at all). This division is called Meiosis 1.
 Finally the two daughter nuclei themselves divide to form gametes. This
second division - Meiosis 2 - works just like mitosis. The chromosomes
(really pairs of chromatids) split apart to form the genetic material of the
four new cells. The end result is four sex cells each with a complete but
single set of 23 chromosomes.

On fertilisation the nuclei of the sperm and the egg join to form a new nucleus,
called the zygote. The zygote contains 23 pairs of chromosomes - 23 single
chromosomes from the sperm, and 23 single chromosomes from the egg.

Mitosis occurs wherever an increase in number of cells is needed. It is important
in the population growth of unicellular organisms, and in the growth and repair
of multicellular organisms. During mitosis a cell produces two copies of itself.
Each is identical to the other and to the cell from which they were formed.

 Before a cell divides, its chromosomes are copied exactly. This process
is called replication. The DNA of each chromosome is copied to form two
chromatids. (For more on chromosomes and DNA go to DNA and

 Pairs of chromatids migrate to the equator of the cell. Contractile spindle

fibres are formed, stretching from each pole to the equator of the cell.
Each chromatid attaches to a spindle fibre. When the fibres contract the
pairs of chromatids are separated and dragged to opposite poles.
 A complete set of chromosomes is therefore found at each pole. These
are then surrounded by a nuclear membrane. In plant cells, the daughter
nuclei are separated from each other by the formation of a cell wall. In
animal cells, the cytoplasm invaginates to form two daughter cells.
Asexual reproduction in plants

Asexual reproduction in plants can take a number of forms:

Vegetative propagation: Many plants develop underground food storage organs

which overwinter and develop into the following year's plant. Examples are bulbs, tubers
(eg potatoes) and rhizomes.

Daffodil bulb

Plantlets: These can take the form of runners (eg strawberries) or side branches (busy

New plant developing from strawberry runner

Cuttings: We can make cuttings or grafts, which in the right conditions will develop
roots and grow into a new plant.

Jade plant cutting developing roots

Tissue culture: We can take a few cells from a plant and grow them into a
complete specimen. Tissue culture is a type of cloning; for more on this topic
see the Revision bite on Cloning and genetic engineering)

As only one parent is involved in asexual reproduction, all the offspring have
exactly the same genes as their parent. The offspring are identical and they are
called clones. Because of this, any genetic problems there may be will always be
passed on to the new generation.

Sexual reproduction in plants

Many plants reproduce sexually. The advantage to the plant is that its offspring
have a selection of genes from two parents, so each individual's genes are
different. The offspring are not identical, and there is variety in the species.

A flowering plant's sexual organs consist of:

 the stamen, or male sex structure, consisting of a filament and a pollen-

bearing anther at the tip
 the pistil or female sex structure, consisting of ovary and ovule, style, and
stigma at the tip. (The pistil is also sometimes called the carpel.)

Here's how it works:

1. An insect or the wind carries pollen grains from the anther of another flower.
2. The pollen grains land on the stigma and a pollen tube grows down through the style to
the ovary.
3. The nucleus of the pollen grain passes down the tube. It fertilises the egg cell inside the
4. The fertilised egg cell develops into an embryo. The ovary becomes the fruit and the
ovule becomes a seed - from which (once dispersed) the offspring plant will grow.

In humans sexual reproduction has the following stages:

1. Once a month an egg cell is released from the ovary. This is called ovulation.
2. The egg cell moves into the oviduct.
3. Many sperm are deposited in the vagina during sexual intercourse. They pass through
the cervix, into the uterus and along the oviduct. A single sperm meets the egg cell in the
oviduct and fertilisation takes place here.
4. The fertilised egg embeds itself in the uterus wall and develops into a human embryo.