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Patterns in Nature Topic 16: Where Mitosis Occurs. Part of the Patterns in Nature Module Biology in Focus, Preliminary Course Glenda Childrawi and Stephanie Hollis. DOT Point(s). Identify the sites of mitosis in plants, insects and mammals. Cell Division.

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patterns in nature topic 16 where mitosis occurs

Patterns in NatureTopic 16: Where Mitosis Occurs

Part of the Patterns in Nature Module

Biology in Focus, Preliminary Course

Glenda Childrawi and Stephanie Hollis

dot point s
DOT Point(s)
  • Identify the sites of mitosis in plants, insects and mammals

cell division
Cell Division

Growth of an organism occurs as a result of increasing the number of cells in the body (cell division) and increasing the size of the already existing cells. Growth and development involves four phases:

  • Cell division: cells can only arise from pre-existing cells
  • Assimilation: the supply of cells with essential material they need for cell enlargement
  • Cell enlargement: the increase in size of cells
  • Differentiation: cells develop different structures to enable them to perform their specific function.

cell division1
Cell Division

Cells in our bodies constantly need repair or replacement. Cell division is important not only for growth but also for repair and maintenance to replace old, worn out cells in living organisms.

cell division2
Cell Division

Although every cell in an organism has the potential to divide by mitosis, in reality, cell division occurs only in certain cells in mature multicellular organisms. Living bodies have control mechanisms to ensure that only those cells required to divide do so.

If cells divide in an uncontrolled manner, tumours or cancer may result.


Most multicellular organisms start life as a single fertilised egg cell which grows into an embryo. It continues its development and eventually grows into an adult.


During embryonic development, there is continual mitotic division and growth of all cells, starting with the division of a single fertilised egg into two identical cells which then divide into four and so on until a ball of cells results.


This ball of cells continues to divide by mitosis and eventually a variety of tissues begin to differentiate, until the young organism begins to closely resemble the adult it will eventually become.

Mitosis followed by differentiation is the driving force behind embryo growth and development.

mature organisms
Mature Organisms

In mature organisms not all cells continue to divide. As cells differentiate and specialise, some lose their ability to divide by mitosis.

Those cells that are able to divide occur at particular locations within the adult body

mature organisms1
Mature Organisms

Growth occurs in two directions:

  • Primary growth: growth in length (height)
  • Secondary growth: growth in girth (width or diameter)

Particular dividing cells give rise to these forms of growth in mature organisms.


Localised cells which are actively involved in mitotic division in plants termed meristematic tissue or meristems are found at the following locations:

  • Apical meristems
  • Buds
  • Cambium
  • pericycle


Apical meristems(apex=top or tip)

  • Growing points near the tips of roots and stems. They result in growth in length (primary growth)



  • Buds contain meristematic tissues that divide by mitosis and give rise to lateral branches



  • Meristematic tissue that divides by mitosis, resulting in growth in diameter (secondary growth) in both stems and roots and allows young leaves to grow. There are two types:
    • Vascular: occurs between xylem and phloem in stems and gives rise to woody tissue
    • Cork: occurs just below the epidermis of stems and gives rise to cork cells and the bark of woody trees



  • A special layer of meristematic tissue in plant roots and is responsible for the development of branch roots


Some mature mammalian bodies require constant replacement, while other require no replacement or are unable to be replaced.

For example skin cells are constantly being replaced, but nerve cells cannot divide once it has fully differentiated.


Active centres of cell division occur at several locations in mature mammalian bodies. The fastest cell replacement rates occur in dividing tissue in the following locations:

  • Basal layer of skin: Cells in the basal layer of the skin and protective layers such as cells that give rise to hair, scales, fingernails and feathers
  • Bone marrow which produces red blood cells
  • Cells lining the digestive tract
  • Liver cells
  • Bone cells

As cells age, their ability to divide is impaired and cell division slows down as a natural part of ageing.


Insects show a different type of development to that of plants and mammals. Their development involves metamorphosis, a change in form and a change in organs when one stage of the life cycle changes to another.


The transformation of an insect larva into an adult is illustrated by two typical examples:

  • Complete metamorphosis: the total transformation of a caterpillar into a pupa (cocoon) and then into a butterfly.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis: the gradual transformation of a young grasshopper into an adult through a series of stages. Each stage separated by a period of moulting with an increase in size at each stage until adulthood.


In both types of metamorphosis the change in form relies on the death of some cells and the division of other cells.

  • During complete metamorphosis, most of the larval tissue inside the pupa are destroyed. Zones of embryonic tissue divide and differentiate into new tissues.
  • During incomplete metamorphosis, less cell death occurs. A large portion of the larval tissues remain and the cells simply enlarge to for corresponding tissue in the adult

In insects mitosis also plays a role in the normal repair and maintenance of body tissues.