(from Ancient Greek γαμέτης
; translated gamete
= wife, gametes
= husband) is a cell
that fuses with another gamete during fertilization
(conception) in organisms
that reproduce sexually
. In species which produce two morphologically distinct types of gametes, and in which each individual produces only one type, a female
is any individual which produces the larger type of gamete—called an ovum
(or egg)—and a male
produces the smaller tadpole-like type—called a sperm
. This is an example of anisogamy
, the condition wherein females and males produce gametes of different sizes (this is the case in humans, the human ovum is approximately 20 times larger than the human sperm cell). In contrast, isogamy
is the state of gametes from both sexes being the same size.
The name gamete was introduced by the Austrian
biologist Gregor Mendel
. Gametes carry half the genetic information
of an individual, one chromosome
of each type. In humans
an ovum can only carry X chromosome
(of the X and Y chromosomes
) whereas a sperm can carry either an X or a Y, hence, it has been suggested that males have the control of the gender
of any resulting zygote
as the genotype
of the sex-determining chromosomes of a male must be XY and a female XX. In other words, due to the presence of the Y chromosome exclusively in the sperm, it is that gamete alone which can determine that an offspring will be a male.
The production of gametes is termed gametogenesis, during which phase gametocytes divide by meiosis into gametes. Meiosis reduces the number of sets of chromosomes from two to one (i.e., produces haploid gametes from diploid gametocytes). Organs that produce gametes are called gonads in animals, and archegonia or antheridia in plants.
A gamete of one generation ultimately creates a gamete in the next generation, but still keeping the same quantity of genetic information.
Gametes are haploid cells; that is, they contain one half a complete set of chromosomes (the actual number varies from species to species). When two gametes fuse (in animals typically involving a sperm and an egg), they form a zygote—a cell that has two complete sets of chromosomes and therefore is diploid. The zygote receives one set of chromosomes from each of the two gametes through the fusion of the two gamete nuclei. After multiple cell divisions and cellular differentiation, a zygote develops, first into an embryo, and ultimately into a mature individual capable of producing gametes.
In contrast to a gamete, the diploid somatic cells
of an individual contain one copy of the chromosome set from the sperm and one copy of the chromosome set from the egg; that is, the cells of the offspring have genes expressing characteristics of both the father
and the mother
. A gamete's chromosomes are not exact duplicates of either of the sets of chromosomes carried in the somatic cells of the individual that produced the gametes. They can be hybrids
produced through crossover
(a form of genetic recombination
) of chromosomes, which takes place in meiosis. This hybridization has a random element, and the chromosomes tend to be a little different in every gamete that an individual produces. This recombination and the fact that the two chromosome sets ultimately come from either a grandmother or a grandfather on each parental side account for the genetic
dissimilarity of siblings