For an organism to reproduce sexually, they need to produce gametes (sex cells). Meiosis is a type of cell division in reproductive organs that produces gametes.

In animals, the gametes are

  • Sperm cells – Male gamete
  • Egg cells – Female gamete

In plants, the gametes are:

  • Pollen grains – Male gamete
  • Egg cells – Female gamete

Sexual reproduction requires gametes (e.g. sperm cells and egg cells). These gametes only contain half the genetic material of a normal cell. For this reason, they are called haploid cells. When the two gametes combine, they form a normal cell, which grows to form an organism. As this cell has two sets of genetic information from each parent, it is called a diploid cell.

However, to make gametes, cells have to undergo meiosis. During meiosis, the chromosomes doubles, and then the cell divides twice to form four gametes. Each gamete has a copy of each chromosome, and all of the gametes are genetically different from each other. This is the cause of variation.

  • As gametes are haploid cells, we can say that meiosis produces four haploid cells

The most important process during meiosis is that the cell divides twice to form four gametes, each with a single set of chromosomes. These four gametes are non-identical haploids, which is the point that fertilisation starts.

The Process of Meiosis

1. Chromosomes make identical copies of themselves, forming X-shaped chromosomes

First cell division

2. Chromosome pairs line up along the centre of the cell

3. Sections of DNA get swapped

4. These chromosome pairs are pulled to opposite sides of the cell

5. The cell divides, forming two cells with one copy of each chromosome

Second cell division

6. Chromosomes line up along the centre of the cell

7. The arms of the chromosomes are pulled to opposite sides of the cell

8. Both cells formed during the first division divide again, producing four haploid daughter cells


During fertilisation, the male and female gamete join together and the nuclei fuse. They become a zygote (fertilised egg cell), which has the full set of chromosomes. The zygote divides by a type of cell division called mitosis, which forms an organism.

All of the cells in the embryo are genetically identical. However, as the embryo develops, the cells differentiate to form specialised cells.