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 organisms, including plants and animals, make new versions of themselves. This process is called reproduction. Plants and animals can reproduce in different ways. The new organism created from reproduction is called an offspring.

Types of Reproduction

There are two types of reproduction: asexual and sexual. Asexual reproduction is when a single parent produces an offspring alone. That offspring is genetically the same as its parent.

Sexual reproduction involves two parents: a male and a female. A male plant or animal has genetic material in the form of sperm or pollen. An egg contains a female plant or animal's genetic material. The offspring then has genetic material from both parents.

Different plants and animals can reproduce either asexually or sexually. Asexual reproduction is more common in plants than animals.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of reproduction. Organisms that reproduce asexually can make several offspring quickly and with little energy. But asexual offspring have the same genes, or genetic material, as their parent. That makes it harder for them to adapt to an unfriendly environment. Organisms that reproduce sexually produce genetically diverse offspring. This means that they can adapt better to different environments. 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 and algae, make spores to reproduce. Spores grow on a plant, then break off and grow into separate organisms. Other plants, such as strawberries, can reproduce asexually by using a part of the plant. A root or stem can be planted to produce a new plant. A method developed by humans known as grafting involves combining two plants into one. Someone attaches the top part of a plant, called a scion, to the lower part of a plant, called a rootstock.

Sexual Reproduction and Fertilization

Many plants and most animals need a male and female to reproduce. Plants and animals share their genetic material in a process called fertilization. With plants, fertilization happens when a male shares pollen with a female's egg.

In flowering plants, an egg is fertilized by cross-pollination. An insect, such as a bee, takes grains of pollen from the male part of a flower, which is called the anther. The bee carries the pollen to the female part of a flower, which is called the stigma. Once the pollen lands on the stigma, it passes through a long, tube-like structure called a style to reach the plant's ovaries. This part of the reproductive organ is where fertilization takes place. Some plants, called hermaphrodites, have male and female parts on the same plant and are able to self-pollinate.

Unlike plants, animals do not depend on help from insects for fertilization. Animals are able to move around, so they can transfer sperm to an egg by physically interacting with each other.

Embryos, Development, and Birth

Once a plant or animal egg is fertilized, it is called an embryo. It then starts developing. Even though plants and animals fertilize differently, their embryos develop in similar ways. A plant embryo grows inside a seed, which provides the nutrients it needs. An animal embryo grows inside an egg, or inside a uterus inside the female parent.

Plants and animals also give birth differently. Animals are born out of the female's uterus, or they hatch from an egg. A plant begins its life by sprouting from a seed. The parent plant releases the seed, which begins to grow once it is in the soil and the conditions are right. After the seed has sprouted into a plant, it can get food through its roots.

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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