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Asexual reproduction in single-celled organisms

Single-celled organisms which use asexual reproduction can do so very rapidly simply by dividing into two equal halves. This is called binary fission.

Yeast cells x650 © Paul Billiet

In yeasts the cell does not divide equally in two halves; instead, there is a large mother cell and a smaller daughter cell. This is called budding.

Spirogyra filaments © Paul Billiet

Some of the simple algae, such as Spirogyra shown above, grow in long threads called filaments. They grow longer each time a cell in the filament divides. If, however, the filament is broken into pieces, each part can grow into a new plant.


Drawing of one Paramecium © Shirley Burchill

Binary fission and budding are very rapid ways of reproducing. For example, if conditions are good, the cell of a Paramecium can divide, grow, and divide again in the space of 8 hours. 

A paramecium undergoing binary fission © Shirley Burchill

One of the best places to look for Paramecia is in a flower vase which has had the same water in it for a few days. The clean water becomes cloudy because of the millions of micro-organisms swimming in it, all of them produced by asexual reproduction within a few days.

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