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Asexual vs. Sexual Reproduction

Introduces the processes by which organisms give rise to offspring, and discusses the difference between asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction.

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Asexual Reproduction

One parent or two?

That is the main difference between sexual and asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction just means combining genetic material from two parents. Asexual reproduction produces offspring genetically identical to the one parent.

Reproduction: Asexual vs. Sexual

Cell division is how organisms grow and repair themselves. It is also how many organisms produce offspring. For many single-celled organisms, reproduction is a similar process. The parent cell simply divides to form two daughter cells that are identical to the parent. In many other organisms, two parents are involved, and the offspring are not identical to the parents. In fact, each offspring is unique. Look at the family in Figure below. The children resemble their parents, but they are not identical to them. Instead, each has a unique combination of characteristics inherited from both parents.

Family Portrait: Mother, Daughter, Father, and Son. Children resemble their parents, but they are never identical to them. Do you know why this is the case?

Reproduction is the process by which organisms give rise to offspring. It is one of the defining characteristics of living things. There are two basic types of reproduction: asexual reproduction and sexual reproduction.

Asexual Reproduction

Asexual reproduction involves a single parent. Therefore, there is no egg or sperm involved in this type of reproduction. It results in offspring that are genetically identical to each other and to the parent or in other words, Clones. All prokaryotes and some eukaryotes reproduce this way. There are several different methods of asexual reproduction. They include binary fission, fragmentation, and budding.

  • Binary fission occurs when a parent cell splits into two identical daughter cells of the same size.
  • Fragmentation occurs when a parent organism breaks into fragments, or pieces, and each fragment develops into a new organism. Starfish, like the one in Figure below, reproduce this way. A new starfish can develop from a single ray, or arm. Starfish, however, are also capable of sexual reproduction.
  • Budding occurs when a parent cell forms a bubble-like bud. The bud stays attached to the parent cell while it grows and develops. When the bud is fully developed, it breaks away from the parent cell and forms a new organism. Budding in yeast is shown in Figure below.

Starfish reproduce by fragmentation and yeasts reproduce by budding. Both are types of asexual reproduction.

Asexual reproduction can be very rapid. This is an advantage for many organisms. It allows them to crowd out other organisms that reproduce more slowly. Bacteria, for example, may divide several times per hour. Under ideal conditions, 100 bacteria can divide to produce millions of bacterial cells in just a few hours! However, most bacteria do not live under ideal conditions. If they did, the entire surface of the planet would soon be covered with them. Instead, their reproduction is kept in check by limited resources, predators, and their own wastes. This is true of most other organisms as well.

Your body cells or somatic cells reproduce asexually using Mitosis. For instance when your skin cell is large enough it will go through mitosis to produce new skin cells. Each new daughter cell is identical to the parent and has the full set of chromsomes which is called diploid. Diploid cells have twice the number of chromsomes as the sex cell.


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