Overview of Reproduction


What is Reproduction?

Reproduction is a biological process that is fundamental to all living organisms. In fact, without this crucial process, life on earth would not be possible. In its most basic sense, reproduction refers to making a copy – which essentially fulfills the goal of the continued existence of species.

Origins of Reproduction

When life evolved, one of the most important characteristics features it possessed was the ability to make copies of itself. If this feature were not present soon afterlife evolved, the earth would have been devoid of all life as we know today. Early life may have had primitive chemical systems to make copies of itself. Eventually, cells arose – and the characteristics feature of making copies evolved alongside. Even multicellular organisms reproduce – by making copies of themselves in the form of offsprings. 

Types of Reproduction

Today, reproduction in animals and plants takes on two forms- sexual and asexual.

Asexual Reproduction

Asexual form of reproduction is the oldest form of reproduction; dating back to the beginning of life. Here, an organism does not need the involvement of another organism for procreation. Moreover, this form of reproduction is most commonly seen in single-celled organisms such as bacteria and protozoans. 

However, with the progress of technology and innovation, we have cloned multicellular organisms – such as sheep. Hence, cloning is also considered as a form of asexual reproduction. There are more forms of asexual reproduction – such as budding, binary fission, parthenogenesis, fragmentation, and spore formation. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Asexual Reproduction

Asexual reproduction has several advantages over sexual reproduction. For instance, a population of organisms can arise very quickly if the environmental conditions are right. Moreover, it is very energy efficient and faster than sexual reproduction.

Unfortunately, asexual reproduction does not lead to genetic variation within the population. This means that the entire population can be at risk of disease. Moreover, organisms are only adapted to one habitat – which is why we have extremophiles.

Sexual Reproduction

Sexual reproduction is more advanced than asexual reproduction. It creates a new organism by combining the genetic material of two organisms. From an evolutionary perspective, sexual reproduction is superior in every way – for instance, it creates variation in the offspring. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Sexual Reproduction

Variation is good because it helps the organism to adapt to changes in the environment. These adaptations are the difference between life and death. Consider this example: bacteria reproduce by binary fission; the resultant organism that is formed is an exact clone of its parents. This means all the individuals in the population may be killed if a disease affects them. 

This is because binary fission does not allow bacteria to incorporate genetic variation between the offspring and the parent organism. Sexual reproduction required additional energy and time. Moreover, it is impossible for an isolated organism to reproduce without finding a mate.

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