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Pre-fertilisation Events

These include all the events of sexual reproduction prior to the fusion of gametes. The two main pre-fertilisation events are gametogenesis and gamete transfer.


As you are already aware gametogenesis refers to the process of formation of the two types of gametes – male and female. Gametes are haploid cells. In some algae the two gametes are so similar in appearance that it is not possible to categorise them into male and female gametes.

Types of gametes

They are hence, are called homogametes (isogametes) (Figure 5a). However, in a majority of sexually reproducing organisms the gametes produced are of two morphologically distinct types (heterogametes). In such organisms the male gamete is called the antherozoid or sperm and the female gamete is called the egg or ovum (Figure 5 b, c).
Sexuality in organisms: Sexual reproduction in organisms generally involves the fusion of gametes from two different individuals. But this is not always true. From your recollection of examples studied in Class XI, can you identify cases where self-fertilisation is observed? Of course, citing such examples in plants is easy.
Plants may have both male and female reproductive structures in the same plant (bisexual) (Figure 6 c, e) or on different plants (unisexual) (Figure 6d). In several fungi and plants, terms such as homothallic and monoecious are used to denote the bisexual condition and heterothallic and dioecious are the terms used to describe unisexual condition. In flowering plants, the unisexual male flower is staminate, i.e., bearing stamens, while the female is pistillate or bearing pistils. In some flowering plants, both male and female flowers may be present on the same individual (monoecious) or on separate individuals (dioecious). Some examples of monoecious plants are cucurbits and coconuts and of dioecious plants are papaya and date palm. Name the type of gametes that are formed in staminate and pistillate flowers.
But what about animals? Are individuals of all species either male or female (unisexual)? Or are there species which possess both the reproductive organs (bisexual)? You probably can make a list of several unisexual animal species. Earthworms, (Figure 6a) sponge, tapeworm and leech, typical examples of bisexual animals that possess both male and female reproductive organs, are hermaphrodites. Cockroach (Figure 6b) is an example of a unisexual species.

Diversity of sexuality in organisms

Cell division during gamete formation : Gametes in all heterogametic species are of two types namely, male and female. Gametes are haploid though the parent plant body from which they arise may be either haploid or diploid. A haploid parent produces gametes by mitotic division. Does this mean that meiosis never occurs in organisms that are haploid?
Several organisms belonging to monera, fungi, algae and bryophytes have haploid plant body, but organisms belonging to pteridophytes, gymnosperms, angiosperms and most of the animals including human beings, the parental body is diploid. It is obvious that meiosis, the reduction division, has to occur if a diploid body has to produce haploid gametes. In diploid organisms, specialised cells called meiocytes (gamete mother cell) undergo meiosis. At the end of meiosis, only one set of chromosomes gets incorporated into each gamete. Carefully study Table 1 and fill in the diploid and haploid chromosome numbers of organisms. Is there any relationship in the number of chromosomes of meiocytes and gametes?

Chromosome Numbers in Meiocytes (diploid, 2n) and Gametes (haploid, n) of Some Organisms. Fill in the Blank Spaces

Gamete Transfer

After their formation, male and female gametes must be physically brought together to facilitate fusion (fertilisation). Have you ever wondered how the gametes meet? In a majority of organisms, male gamete is motile and the female gamete is stationary. Exceptions are a few fungi and algae in which both types of gametes are motile (Figure 7a). There is a need for a medium through which the male gametes move. In several simple plants like algae, bryophytes and pteridophytes, water is the medium through which this gamete transfer takes place. A large number of the male gametes, however, fail to reach the female gametes. To compensate this loss of male gametes during transport, the number of male gametes produced is several thousand times the number of female gametes produced.
In seed plants, pollen grains are the carriers of male gametes and ovule have the egg. Pollen grains produced in anthers therefore, have to be transferred to the stigma before it can lead to fertilisation (Figure 7b). In bisexual, self-fertilising plants, e.g., peas, transfer of pollen grains to the stigma is relatively easy as anthers and stigma are located close to each other; pollen grains soon after they are shed, come in contact with the stigma. But in cross pollinating plants (including dioecious plants), a specialised event called pollination facilitates transfer of pollen grains to the stigma. Pollen grains germinate on the stigma and the pollen tubes carrying the male gametes reach the ovule and discharge male gametes near the egg. In dioecious animals, since male and female gametes are formed in different individuals, the organism must evolve a special mechanism for gamete transfer. Successful transfer and coming together of gametes is essential for the most critical event in sexual reproduction, the fertilisation.

(a) Homogametic contact in alga; (b) Germinating pollen grains on the stigma of a flower
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