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What is the difference between meiosis and mitosis?

Cell division can be achieved by either mitosis or meiosis. Cell division via mitosis is essential for growth and repair and occurs in nearly all cells in the body, whereas cell division by meiosis occurs in reproduction and is important in producing gametes e.g. sperm cells.  

The overall aim of cell division is to double the genetic material in the cell and then for that cell to divide into daughter cells with an equal genetic content.

Mitosis and meiosis both have 4 distinct stages:

1. Prophase

2. Metaphase

3. Anaphase, and

4. Telophase

A useful way of remembering the order is by the acronym – Purple Mice Are Tasty.

Cytokinesis usually follows telophase and is basically where the cell divides into two.

In mitosis the cell goes through the above stages once, while in meiosis there are two rounds of the above stages.

Having two rounds creates 4 daughter cells each with half the genetic content, whereas in mitosis the outcome is 2 daughter cells each with the normal amount of genetic information.

A further crucial difference is the fact that in meiosis the 4 daughter cells and not genetically identical, this is important and is what makes everyone unique. This occurs because of crossing over of chromatids in prophase, and the independent assortment of chromosomes and chromatids in metaphase.

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