19.1: What is Meiosis?
Meiosis is the process by which diploid cells divide to produce haploid daughter cells. In humans, each diploid cell contains 46 chromosomes, half from the mother and half from the father. Following meiosis, the resulting haploid eggs or sperm only contain 23 chromosomes; however, each of these chromosomes contains a unique combination of parental information that results from the meiotic process of crossing over.
Although meiosis shares similarities with mitosis—both rely on microtubules to partition chromosomes to opposite sides of a cell, which then divides to form a daughter cell pair—meiosis is only observed in the sex organs, while mitosis occurs in other tissue types of the body. In addition, the cells resulting from mitosis are genetically indistinguishable (save for random mutations) from their predecessor: crossing over does not occur, and all the daughter cells are diploid. In contrast, meiosis produces four cells that not only have half the number of chromosomes from their predecessor, but they also contain unique combinations of genetic material. No two meiotic products are identical, which helps account for the appearance and personality differences often seen between siblings in the same family.