Meiosis contributes to genetic variation by creating new groups of genes, according to the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The new groups are created when chromosomes passed down from a mother and father share instructions encoded into genes. The process of mixing genes leads to offspring with nearly unlimited possibilities for genetic instructions.
Meiosis is a way in which cells divide that distributes half of the usual 46 human chromosomes to sperm and half to an egg, according to Wikipedia. Together, the egg and sperm result in a fertilized egg, known as a zygote, which contains all 46 chromosomes. Half the chromosomes come from the father, and half come from the mother. The process of meiosis and fertilization result in every generation having the same number of 46 chromosomes. The process also takes place in animals and plants.
Oscar Hertwig, a German biologist, first observed the process of meiosis in 1876 as he studied the eggs of sea urchins, Wikipedia notes. Belgian zoologist Edouard Van Beneden further explained the process, including the relationship to chromosomes, in 1883. American geneticist Thomas Hunt Morgan expanded on the knowledge in 1911 with the first proof that chromosomes pass genes to offspring.