The alternation of generations involves the following series of events that repeatedly occur while creating a cycle of events:
Step1: Sporangium in a sporophyte, the diploid stage (2n), goes through a series of meiotic divisions, thereby giving rise to haploid spores.
Step2: The spores then progress into the formation of a gametophyte, a haploid condition.
Step3: Gametophyte, containing the sex organs, goes through a series of mitotic divisions to give rise to gametes (n).
Step4: These gametes when fused with another haploid gamete undergo fertilization, thereby resulting in a zygote that is diploid (2n) in nature.
Step5: The diploid zygote upon maturation gives rise to a sporophyte that is ready to experience another cycle of alternation of generation.
The gametophyte stage is the successive phase following the sporophyte stage in the alternation of the generation cycle. This gametophyte stage is intensively observed as a characteristic of various ferns and is regarded as the ingenious form of alternation of generations.
The newly formed spore is characterized by half the DNA when compared to the parental species. The spore goes through multiple mitotic stages to give rise to a gametophyte. The gametophyte phase produces gametes in the gametangia. The gametes are further transported to other plants or dispersed in the atmosphere. When the gamete comes across a gamete of counter gender, it unites with that gamete and undergoes fertilization, thereby resulting in zygote formation that develops into a sporophyte.
Sporophyte in turn undergoes meiotic divisions to produce spores that on germination grow into a gametophyte of the successive generation.
Thus, this rotation of events beginning from one gametophyte stage to the consecutive gametophyte stage is the process of sexual reproduction in many plants and algal species.
Characteristics of Gametophyte Stage in Different Classes of Plants:
Plants are known to interchange amongst the sporophyte stage and the gametophyte stage and also between the sexual and asexual reproductive patterns. This characteristic feature of plants that allows them to sexually or asexually reproduce assists them in adapting to various atmospheres.
The life cycle of plants is dominant in one generation when compared to the other. It is regarded that the plants are known to have longer life spans and appear large in the dominant stage when compared to that of the non-dominant stage where the plants are short and are not visible.
The fundamental basis of the alternation of generations is complicated with the occurrence of various factors. One of the main factors is the sex of the species. The gametophyte and sporophyte are characterized by different genders. Also, both the stages are dependent on one another to some extent.
Gametophytes have designated the terms of monoicous and dioecious species based on the occurrence of sex in the same individual or if they are separately occurring. The gametophytes having both the sexes in a single organism are referred to as monoicous species and if they are present in different organisms, then they are regarded as dioecious species.
The variety of the plant is largely the basis of the alternation of generations. For instance, bryophytes are the plants that are characterized by a dominant haploid generation where the chief plant constitutes the gametophyte stage. Conversely, tracheophytes are plants that have a dominant diploid generation and the chief plant constitutes the sporophyte stage. Also, vascular plants are characterized by a dominant sporophyte generation and the non-vascular plants are characterized by a dominant gametophyte generation.
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