Plant and Animal Reproduction

Plant and Animal Reproduction

While all organisms reproduce, not all organisms reproduce the same way. Explore the similar and different ways that plants and animals pass on their genes.


3 - 12


Biology, Genetics

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All plants and animals make new versions of themselves. This is called reproduction. The new plants or animals are called offspring. Plants and animals can reproduce in different ways.

Types of Reproduction

Plants and animals can reproduce in two ways. One way is asexual reproduction. In this process, a single parent makes an offspring that's the same as itself. This type of reproduction is more common in plants.

Sexual reproduction is the other type of reproduction. It needs a male and a female parent. A male plant or animal has sperm or pollen. A female plant or animal has an egg. The sperm or pollen joins with an egg to start a new offspring.

Asexual and sexual reproduction both have good points and bad points. Plants or animals that reproduce asexually can make several offspring quickly and easily. But the offspring has the same genetic material as their parent. That makes it harder for them to adapt, or adjust, in a changing environment. Offspring created through sexual reproduction have combinations of their parents. That makes it easier for them to adapt. But sexual reproduction takes more time and energy than asexual reproduction.

Asexual Reproduction

There are many ways plants can reproduce asexually. Some nonflowering plants, such as moss, make spores to reproduce. Spores grow on a plant, then break off and grow into new plants. Other plants, such as strawberries, can reproduce asexually by using a part of the plant. A new plant can grow from a root or a stem. Humans use a method known as grafting to make plants reproduce. They attach the top part of a plant to the lower part of another plant, combining two plants into one.

Sexual Reproduction and Fertilization

When plants and animals reproduce sexually, they share parts of themselves to make an offspring. This is called fertilization. With plant fertilization, a male shares pollen with a female's egg. Plants can't move, so an insect such as a bee helps. The bee takes grains of pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part of a flower. The pollen reaches the female plant's egg. That's where fertilization happens.

Animals don't need help from insects for fertilization. They can move around by themselves. They transfer sperm to an egg by physically interacting with each other.

Embryos, Development, and Birth

A fertilized plant or animal egg is called an embryo. Plant and animal embryos develop in similar ways. A plant embryo grows inside a seed, which provides the nutrients it needs. An animal embryo can grow inside an egg, like with birds. Embryos can also grow inside the uterus of the female parent.

Plants and animals also start life differently. A plant begins its life by sprouting from a seed. The seed begins to grow once it is in the ground. After the seed has sprouted into a plant, it can get food through its roots. Animals are born out of a female's uterus. They can also hatch from an egg.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Clint Parks
Roza Kavak
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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