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Word Count: 4,017
process by which organisms replicate themselves In a general sense reproduction is one of the most important concepts in biology it means making a copy a likeness and thereby providing for the continued existence of species Although reproduction is often considered solely in terms of the production of offspring in animals and plants the more general meaning has far greater significance to living organisms To appreciate this fact the origin of life and the evolution of organisms must be considered One of the first characteristics of life that emerged in primeval times must have been the ability of some primitive chemical system to make copies of itself At its lowest level therefore reproduction is chemical replication As evolution progressed cells of successively higher levels of complexity must have arisen and it was absolutely essential that they had the ability to make likenesses of themselves In unicellular organisms the ability of one cell to reproduce itself means the reproduction of a new individual in multicellular organisms however it means growth and regeneration Multicellular organisms also reproduce in the strict sense of the term--that is they make copies of themselves in the form of offspring--but they do so in a variety of ways many involving complex organs and elaborate In single-celled organisms eg bacteria protozoans many algae and some fungi organismic and cell reproduction are synonymous for the cell is the whole organism Details of the process differ greatly from one form to the next and if the higher ciliate protozoans are included can be extraordinarily complex It is possible for reproduction to be asexual by simple division or sexual In sexual unicellular organisms the gametes can be produced by division often multiple fission as in numerous algae or as in yeasts by the organism turning itself into a gamete and fusing its nucleus with that of a neighbour of the opposite sex a process that is called conjugation In ciliate protozoans eg Paramecium the conjugation process
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