Overview: The Purposes of Cell Division
Multicellular organisms come from processes of cell division. Overall, cell division accounts for organism growth and repair, as well as types of reproduction. Eukaryotes are able to divide and reproduce copies of themselves because of enhanced genetic material in their larger and more specialized nuclei.
Growth and Repair
Multicellular organisms are able to grow by increasing the number of cells, as new cells join existing cells. In addition, cell division allows organisms to produce new cells to replace those that are worn out or damaged. For example, while a skin wound heals, new skin cells grow to replace those that have been lost through the wound. Some cells, such as skin cells, continue to divide and grow throughout life, where others do not reproduce easily or at all.
Asexual reproduction involves only one parent. In the simplest type, binary fission, one cell splits into two. A single chromosome lines up and duplicates itself. The new double chromosome attaches itself to the cell membrane, a new membrane is formed between the two chromosomes, and it then becomes two new identical cells. In some forms of fission, one chromosome from the doubled pair will result in an active cell and the other one will form a spore. The spore will remain inactive until conditions are right for it to sprout.
Budding, Propagation, and Regeneration
Some plant species reproduce asexually by dividing first, then growing separately. Others, such as strawberries, some houseplants, and potatoes, grow new plants from parts or cuttings of the original plant. For example, potato plants grow from small pieces of potato containing an eye. Some species, such as starfish, have the ability to regenerate a new limb if one is broken off. If a starfish is cut into several pieces, then thrown back into the water, each part will grow into an identical starfish.
Sexual reproduction occurs when a gamete from each parent joins to form a zygote. More variation of characteristics is possible in the offspring, as genetic material from each parent combines. The offspring is not identical to either parent, but combines traits from both. In addition, each organism in the next generation are different from one another.
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