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Life Cycles of Sexually Reproducing Organisms

6 April, 2016 - 17:26

Fertilization and meiosis alternate in sexual life cycles. What happens between these two events depends on the organism. The process of meiosis reduces the resulting gamete’s chromosome number by half. Fertilization, the joining of two haploid gametes, restores the diploid condition. There are three main categories of life cycles in multicellular organisms: diploid-dominant, in which the multicellular diploid stage is the most obvious life stage (and there is no multicellular haploid stage), as with most animals including humans; haploid-dominant, in which the multicellular haploid stage is the most obvious life stage (and there is no multicellular diploid stage), as with all fungi and some algae; and alternation of generations, in which the two stages, haploid and diploid, are apparent to one degree or another depending on the group, as with plants and some algae.

Nearly all animals employ a diploid-dominant life-cycle strategy in which the only haploid cells produced by the organism are the gametes. The gametes are produced from diploid germ cells, a special cell line that only produces gametes. Once the haploid gametes are formed, they lose the ability to divide again. There is no multicellular haploid life stage. Fertilization occurs with the fusion of two gametes, usually from different individuals, restoring the diploid state (Figure 7.2 a).

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Figure 7.2
(a) In animals, sexually reproducing adults form haploid gametes from diploid germ cells. (b) Fungi, such as black bread mold (Rhizopus nigricans), have haploid-dominant life cycles. (c) Plants have a life cycle that alternates between a multicellular haploid organism and a multicellular diploid organism.

If a mutation occurs so that a fungus is no longer able to produce a minus mating type,will it still be able to reproduce?

Most fungi and algae employ a life-cycle strategy in which the multicellular “body” of the organism is haploid. During sexual reproduction, specialized haploid cells from two individuals join to form a diploid zygote. The zygote immediately undergoes meiosis to form four haploid cells called spores (Figure 7.2 b).

The third life-cycle type, employed by some algae and all plants, is called alternation of generations. These species have both haploid and diploid multicellular organisms as part of their life cycle. The haploid multicellular plants are called gametophytes because they produce gametes. Meiosis is not involved in the production of gametes in this case, as the organism that produces gametes is already haploid. Fertilization between the gametes forms a diploid zygote. The zygote will undergo many rounds of mitosis and give rise to a diploid multicellular plant called a sporophyte. Specialized cells of the sporophyte will undergo meiosis and produce haploid spores. The spores will develop into the gametophytes (Figure 7.2 c).