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Word Count: 327
A number of single-celled organisms multiply by conjugation In this process which is analogous to fertilization two similar unicellular organisms fuse exchange nuclear materials and then break apart Each organism then reproduces by fission occasionally after conjugation the participating organisms do not reproduce the process in these instances seeming merely to revitalize the organisms Conjugation is the most primitive method of sexual reproduction by which organisms having genetic characteristics derived from two parents are produced Most multicellular animals and plants undergo a more complex form of sexual reproduction in which especially differentiated male and female reproductive cells gametes unite to form a single cell known as a zygote which later undergoes successive divisions to form a new organism The terms fecundation and fertilization are applied to the union of the male and female cells In this form of sexual reproduction half the genes the carriers of inheritable characteristics in the zygote come from one parent and half from the other parent See Cell Many lower multicellular organisms and all higher plants undergo an alternation of generations In this process a sexually produced generation alternates with an asexually produced generation In some organisms that reproduce sexually a process known as parthenogenesis occurs in which the female sex cell develops without fertilization In higher animals individuals of a single species are either male or female according to whether they produce male reproductive cells or female reproductive cells The typical male reproductive cell which is known as a sperm spermatozoon or spermatozoan is a motile cell with a head containing the nucleus and a whiplike tail with which it swims The typical female reproductive cell which is known as an egg or ovum is a rounded cell many times larger than the sperm and containing large amounts of cytoplasm surrounding the nucleus Plant reproductive cells are roughly similar to animal cells the male cell being known as the sperm or microgamete and the female cell as
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