Sexual reproduction is the process of combining two different genetic materials, resulting to offspring that share similar traits with their parents but are genetically diverse. Humans as well as most animals reproduce sexually, although there are some animals that use asexual reproduction. Many plants can reproduce through both sexual and asexual methods.
Over the years, scientists, students, and other people have argued about the pros and cons of sexual reproduction. There is no “right” and “wrong” side, although it’s clear that this method comes with both benefits and drawbacks and that creatures must deal with them whether they like it or not. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of sexual reproduction.
List of Advantages of Sexual Reproduction
1. It paves the way to unique individuals.
In asexual organisms, their cells go through a process called mitosis. This means that every chromosome is copied before the nucleus divides and that every resulting chromosome receives the exact same copy of genetic information. As a result, children are very similar to their parents since they’re essentially carbon copies of them.
This isn’t the case in sexually reproducing organisms, whose cells go through a process called meiosis. In this process, the 46 chromosomes of the nucleus are divided among two reproductive cells called gametes (sperm cells for males and egg cells for females). Each gamete contains 23 chromosomes — half the number of the chromosomes that their parent cell had. When fertilization happens, sperm cells and egg cells join to form a zygote that contains exactly 46 chromosomes.
Unlike asexually reproduced offspring, this zygote receives traits from each parent but isn’t a replica of either of them. Rather, it’s a unique individual that will eventually contribute a different set of genes to the gene pool. Because of this, offspring reproduced sexually are completely different from each other (with the exception of identical twins, which come from the same egg).
2. It promotes survival.
As mentioned above, organisms that reproduce asexually have genetically identical offspring. This can be the downfall of their species because, if one of them develops a certain type of illness, the disease can easily spread to the rest of the population and affect them all in the same way. As a result, their entire species can be wiped out, rendering them extinct.
This is fortunately not the case with sexually reproducing organisms. Since every individual is genetically different, there’s a high chance that some members of the species won’t be affected by diseases that destroy others. These individuals can go on to survive and reproduce, ensuring their species won’t go extinct.
3. It removes bad genes from the population.
Mitosis, as mentioned, copies the genetic code of the nucleus during reproduction. This means that asexual organisms pass on the same types of chromosomes to all their offspring, whether these chromosomes bring about good or bad traits. In meiosis, however, there’s always the chance that these chromosomes won’t be passed down to the offspring. Even if they would, natural selection can still prevent them from being passed down to the next generation, ensuring that the species can eventually be free of these unfavorable genes.
List of Disadvantages of Sexual Reproduction
1. It requires two parents.
One of the biggest benefits of asexual reproduction is that any asexual organism can produce offspring on its own. Unfortunately, reproduction isn’t as easy as for sexual organisms, which need a male and female in order to reproduce. This can be difficult when there’s a disparity between the number of males and females in the area.
2. It takes time and energy.
Sexual reproduction is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. Humans, for example, need enough time to find a mate and build an emotional connection with them (whether temporarily or permanently) before they can copulate. The same is true for animals; males need to court females and convince them to choose them as mates while competing with other males who also have their eyes on the female. Many mating processes in animals often lead to fights among the males (who try to prove their masculinity and virility), resulting to injuries and even death.
It’s also important to note that not all sexual reproductive acts are successful. In many cases, organisms have to copulate at least several times before they can produce an offspring. They also have to go through many challenges to bring their offspring to life; humans, for example, can experience miscarriage because of stress, poor health, and other factors.
This can be compared to the asexual reproduction process, which is fairly easy and uncomplicated. Since only one parent is needed, the organism can produce offspring whenever the right time to reproduce comes, and it doesn’t have to waste time and energy on finding a mate.
3. It can prevent favorable genes from being passed to offspring.
Sexual reproduction, as mentioned above, can prevent bad genes from being passed down to offspring, but it can also do the same thing for good genes. For instance, if a female with an excellent genetic makeup is paired with a male with a poor genetic makeup, their children may take after the father and end up with undesirable traits. Even if they would inherit good traits from their mother, they would still not be 100 percent like her since they won’t receive the exact same set of genes from her.
4. It produces fewer offspring than asexual reproduction.
Asexually reproducing organisms often produce numerous offspring at any given time. Sexual organisms, however, can’t do the same thing. Humans, for instance, spend a lot of time searching for the right mate and, once they find a partner and copulate with them, they spend nine months in pregnancy. Because of this, it’s not always possible for them to give birth every year. Humans also typically produce only one child per copulation; multiple births are possible but don’t always happen.
Sexual reproduction has many advantages over asexual reproduction, but it also has its drawbacks. Fortunately, many organisms have adapted to these disadvantages and have successfully used sexual reproduction to increase their population and ensure the survival of their species.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.