What Advantage Does Conjugation Provide Over Traditional Modes Of Asexual Reproduction?


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Ann Dougherty answered
Basically only the lower forms of life, single cell organisms, reproduce asexually.  These include such things as amoebae and bacteria.  They first divide their cell nucleus into two and then the rest of the cell divides up around the two nuclei, thus producing two individuals, both theoretically identical to the first.  I say, theoretically, because although this method of reproduction appears to be a form of cloning, bacteria are proven to be able to adapt themselves to acquire defences against antibiotics and adjust to changes in their environment rapidly.  This may be because at the level of single cell animals, simple division powered from within the living cell means no external conditions have to be met or external events have to occur for reproduction to take place.  This enables the individuals who have successfully made the necessary adaptations to reproduce very rapidly, thus maintaining the population.
Very few animals are hermaphrodite.  One of these is the hydra, which is a very small animal, not unlike a microscopic sea anemone in appearance.
Amongst plants, there are quite a few which spread by extending suckers or roots into the ground, such as brambles or many types of field grasses, thus producing colonies of connected individuals which can live independently of each other.  Many plants, however, require cross pollination to produce fruit and seeds which can be transported by wind or birds and animals to grow new individuals in new locations.
Amongst complex animals, sexual reproduction is the norm.  In biology lessons at school, many moons ago, we were taught that sexual reproduction enabled a greater variety of characteristics to be shared amongst individuals, thus making it less likely that weaknesses will be carried on down the line ad infinitum, and that a good mix of characteristics is maintained throughout the species.  This is more advantageous than speed of reproduction for the more complex forms of life.

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