What Are the Main Differences Between Mitosis and Meiosis?

Ed Reschke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Though both meiosis and mitosis involve the division of a cell, meiosis generates a cell used for sexual reproduction, while mitosis generates a cell used for growth. Mitosis produces two cells that are identical to the parent cell. Meiosis produces four cells that each contain half the number of chromosomes of the parent cell. Chromosomes are DNA containing genetic information.

Meiosis produces the sex cells of the body. In females, these sex cells are called eggs. In males, they are called sperm. Fusion of a male and female sex cell results in the creation of a zygote that contains the full genetic complement of information needed to create an offspring. All other body cells go through mitosis.

Mitotic cell division occurs in four distinct phases. Before mitosis begins, the cell prepares to divide by copying its DNA. This allows the two daughter cells at the end of mitosis to each have a copy of the DNA. Though copying of DNA occurs before meiosis, it consists of eight distinct phases. The first four phases divide the cell into two new cells. The next four phases divide these two cells again. This secondary division is what creates cells with half the number of chromosomes needed for fertilization.