1.2.1.2 Gamete Transfer

After their formation, male and female gametes must be physically brought together to facilitate fusion (fertilisation). Have you ever wondered how the gametes meet? In a majority of organisms, male gamete is motile and the female gamete is stationary. Exceptions are a few fungi and algae in which both types of gametes are motile.

There is a need for a medium through which the male gametes move. In several simple plants like algae, bryophytes and pteridophytes, water is the medium through which this gamete transfer takes place. A large number of the male gametes, however, fail to reach the female gametes.

To compensate this loss of male gametes during transport, the number of male gametes produced is several thousand times the number of female gametes produced. In seed plants, pollen grains are the carriers of male gametes and ovule have the egg. Pollen grains produced in anthers therefore, have to be transferred to the stigma before it can lead to fertilisation.

In bisexual, self-fertilising plants, e.g., peas, transfer of pollen grains to the stigma is relatively easy as anthers and stigma are located close to each other; pollen grains soon after they are shed, come in contact with the stigma. But in cross pollinating plants (including dioecious plants), a specialised event called pollination facilitates transfer of pollen grains to the stigma.

Pollen grains germinate on the stigma and the pollen tubes carrying the male gametes reach the ovule and discharge male gametes near the egg. In dioecious animals, since male and female gametes are formed in different individuals, the organism must evolve a special mechanism for gamete transfer.

Successful transfer and coming together of gametes is essential for the most critical event in sexual reproduction, the fertilisation.

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