Cloning and stem cells
Cloning occurs naturally in some plants and in human identical twins, and it is now possible to clone animals artificially. The subject of cloning raises a number of ethical issues that need to be considered.
Clones are genetically identical individuals. Bacteria, plants and some animals can reproduce asexually to form clones that are genetically identical to their parent. Identical human twins are also clones: any differences between them are due to environmental factors.
Asexual reproduction only requires one parent, unlike sexual reproduction, which needs two. Since there is only one parent, there is no fusion of gametes, and no mixing of genetic information. As a result, the offspring are genetically identical to the parent, and to each other - so they are clones.
Asexual reproduction in plants can take a number of forms. Many plants develop underground food-storage organs that later develop into the following year’s plants. Potato plants and daffodil plants do this.
Some plants produce side branches with plantlets on them. The Busy Lizzie plant does this. Others, such as strawberry plants, produce runners with plantlets on them.
Asexual reproduction in animals is less common than sexual reproduction but it does happen in sea anemones and starfish, for example.
Twins are genetically identical because they are formed after one egg cell is fertilised but splits to form two embryos. They have the same genes. As the genes came from both parents they are not clones of either parent, but they are natural clones of each other.
It is possible to make clones artificially. The cloning of animals has many important commercial implications. It allows an individual animal that has desirable features, such as a cow that produces a lot of milk, to be duplicated several times.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.