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In the first stage of sexual reproduction, "meiosis", the number of chromosomes is reduced from a diploid number (2n) to a haploid number (n). During "fertilization", haploid gametes come together to form a diploid zygote and the original number of chromosomes is restored.

Sexual reproduction is a form of reproduction where two morphologically distinct types of specialized reproductive cells called gametes fuse together, involving a female's large ovum (or egg) and a male's smaller sperm. Each gamete contains half the number of chromosomes of normal cells. They are created by a specialized type of cell division, which only occurs in eukaryotic cells, known as meiosis. The two gametes fuse during fertilization to produce DNA replication and the creation of a single-celled zygote which includes genetic material from both gametes. In a process called genetic recombination, genetic material (DNA) joins up so that homologous chromosome sequences are aligned with each other, and this is followed by exchange of genetic information. Two rounds of cell division then produce four daughter cells with half the number of chromosomes from each original parent cell, and the same number of chromosomes as both parents, though self-fertilization can occur. For instance, in human reproduction each human cell contains 46 chromosomes, 23 pairs, except gamete cells, which only contain 23 chromosomes, so the child will have 23 chromosomes from each parent genetically recombined into 23 pairs. Cell division initiates the development of a new individual organism in multicellular organisms,<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=web }}</ref> including animals and plants, for the vast majority of whom this is the primary method of reproduction.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref> A species is defined as a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms where two hybrids are capable of reproducing fertile offspring, typically using sexual reproduction, although the species problem encompasses a series of difficult related questions that often come up when biologists define the word species.

The evolution of sexual reproduction is a major puzzle because asexual reproduction should be able to outcompete it as every young organism created can bear its own young. This implies that an asexual population has an intrinsic capacity to grow more rapidly with each generation.<ref name="maynard">John Maynard Smith The Evolution of Sex 1978.</ref> This 50% cost is a fitness disadvantage of sexual reproduction.<ref>Ridley M (2004) Evolution, 3rd edition. Blackwell Publishing, p. 314.</ref> The two-fold cost of sex includes this cost and the fact that any organism can only pass on 50% of its own genes to its offspring. One definite advantage of sexual reproduction is that it prevents the accumulation of genetic mutations.<ref>{{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}</ref>

Sexual selection is a mode of natural selection in which some individuals out-reproduce others of a population because they are better at securing mates for sexual reproduction.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=book }}</ref><ref name="PHYS-20140129">{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=news }}</ref> It has been described as "a powerful evolutionary force that does not exist in asexual populations"<ref name="NCBI">Sexual selection and the maintenance of sexual reproduction</ref>

Prokaryotes reproduce through asexual reproduction but may display processes similar to sexual reproduction (mechanisms for lateral gene transfer such as bacterial conjugation, transformation and transduction), but they do not lead to reproduction. In prokaryotes, the initial cell has additional or transformed genetic material.


Sexual reproduction sections
Intro  Evolution  Sexual selection  Sex ratio  Animals  Plants  Fungi  Bacteria and archaea  See also  Notes  References  External links  

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