Fragmentation (reproduction)

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Fragmentation in multicellular or colonial organisms is a form of asexual reproduction or cloning, where an organism is split into fragments. Each of these fragments develop into mature, fully grown individuals that are clones of the original organism.


The organism may develop specific organs or zones to shed or be easily broken off. If the splitting occurs without the prior preparation of the organism, both fragments must be able to regenerate the complete organism for it to function as reproduction.

Fragmentation as a method of reproduction is seen in organisms such as filamentous cyanobacteria, molds, lichens, sponges, acoel flatworms, some annelid worms and sea stars. [1]

Fragmentation in various organisms

Molds, yeasts and mushrooms, all of which are part of the Fungi kingdom, produce tiny filaments called hyphae. These hyphae obtain food and nutrients from the body of other organisms to grow and fertilize. Then a piece of hyphae breaks off and grows into a new individual and the cycle continues.

Many lichens produce specialized structures that can easily break away and disperse. These structures contain both hyphae of the mycobiont and the algae (phycobiont) (see soredia and isidia). Larger fragments of the thallus may break away when the lichen dries or due to mechanical disturbances (see the section on reproduction in lichens).


Fragmentation is a very common type of vegetative reproduction in plants. Many trees, shrubs, nonwoody perennials, and ferns form clonal colonies by producing new rooted shoots by rhizomes or stolons, which increases the diameter of the colony. If a rooted shoot becomes detached from the colony, then fragmentation has occurred. There are several other mechanisms of natural fragmentation in plants.

People use fragmentation to artificially propagate many plants via division, layering, cuttings, grafting, micropropagation and storage organs, such as bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes.


Sponges and coral colonies naturally fragment and reproduce. Many species of annelids and flat worms reproduce by this method. When the splitting occurs due to specific developmental changes, the terms architomy, paratomy and budding are used.In'architomy' the animal splits at a particular point and the two fragments regenerate the missing organs and tissues. The splitting is not preceded by the development of the tissues to be lost. Prior to splitting, the animal may develop furrows at the zone of splitting. The headless fragment must regenerate a complete new head. In 'paratomy', the split occurs perpendicular to the antero-posterior axis and the split is preceded by the "pregeneration" of the anterior structures in the posterior portion. The two organisms have their body axis aligned i.e. they develop in a head to tail fashion. Budding is similar to paratomy except that the body axes need not be aligned: the new head may grow toward the side or even point backward (e.g. Convolutriloba retrogemma an acoel flat worm). [5] [6]


Corals can be multiplied in aquaria by attaching "frags" from a mother colony to a suitable substrate, such as a ceramic plug or a piece of live rock. This aquarium is designed specifically for growing coral colonies from frags. Growing coral (3814394886).jpg
Corals can be multiplied in aquaria by attaching "frags" from a mother colony to a suitable substrate, such as a ceramic plug or a piece of live rock. This aquarium is designed specifically for growing coral colonies from frags.

Many types of coral colonies can increase in number by fragmentation occurring naturally [7] or artificially. Reef aquarium enthusiasts fragment corals for various purposes including shape control; sharing with others; regrowth experiments; and minimizing damage to natural coral reefs. Both hard and soft corals can be fragmented. Genera highly tolerant of fragmentation include Acropora , Montipora , Pocillopora , Euphyllia , and Caulastraea among others. [8] Most sea anemones reproduce through fragmentation via a variety of methods including longitudinal fission, where the original anemone splits across the middle forming two equal-sized anemones, and basal laceration, in which small parts of the animal split from the base to form new anemones. [9]


In echinoderms, the process is usually known as fissiparity (a term also used infrequently for biological fission in general). Some species can intentionally reproduce in this manner through autotomy. This method is more common during the larval editing stages. [10]

Disadvantage of this process of reproduction

As this process is a form of asexual reproduction, it does not produce genetic diversity in the offspring. Therefore, these are more vulnerable to changing environments, parasites and diseases.

See also

Related Research Articles

Asexual reproduction Reproduction without a sexual process

Asexual reproduction is a type of reproduction that does not involve the fusion of gametes or change in the number of chromosomes. The offspring that arise by asexual reproduction from either unicellular or multicellular organisms inherit the full set of genes of their single parent. Asexual reproduction is the primary form of reproduction for single-celled organisms such as archaea and bacteria. Many eukaryotic organisms including plants, animals, and fungi can also reproduce asexually. In vertebrates, the most common form of asexual reproduction is parthenogenesis, which is typically used as an alternative to sexual reproduction in times when reproductive opportunities are limited.

Reproduction Biological process by which new organisms are generated from one or more parent organisms

Reproduction is the biological process by which new individual organisms – "offspring" – are produced from their "parent" or parents. Reproduction is a fundamental feature of all known life; each individual organism exists as the result of reproduction. There are two forms of reproduction: asexual and sexual.

Polyp (zoology) One of two forms found in the phylum Cnidaria (zoology)

A polyp in zoology is one of two forms found in the phylum Cnidaria, the other being the medusa. Polyps are roughly cylindrical in shape and elongated at the axis of the vase-shaped body. In solitary polyps, the aboral end is attached to the substrate by means of a disc-like holdfast called a pedal disc, while in colonies of polyps it is connected to other polyps, either directly or indirectly. The oral end contains the mouth, and is surrounded by a circlet of tentacles.

Ascomycota Division or phylum of fungi

Ascomycota is a phylum of the kingdom Fungi that, together with the Basidiomycota, forms the subkingdom Dikarya. Its members are commonly known as the sac fungi or ascomycetes. It is the largest phylum of Fungi, with over 64,000 species. The defining feature of this fungal group is the "ascus", a microscopic sexual structure in which nonmotile spores, called ascospores, are formed. However, some species of the Ascomycota are asexual, meaning that they do not have a sexual cycle and thus do not form asci or ascospores. Familiar examples of sac fungi include morels, truffles, brewer's yeast and baker's yeast, dead man's fingers, and cup fungi. The fungal symbionts in the majority of lichens such as Cladonia belong to the Ascomycota.

Colony (biology) Term in biology

In biology, a colony is composed of two or more conspecific individuals living in close association with, or connected to, one another. This association is usually for mutual benefit such as stronger defense or the ability to attack bigger prey. It is a cluster of identical cells (clones) on the surface of a solid medium, usually derived from a single parent cell, as in bacterial colony. In contrast, solitary organisms are ones in which all individuals live independently and have all of the functions needed to survive and reproduce.

Vegetative reproduction Asexual methods of reproduction

Vegetative reproduction is any form of asexual reproduction occurring in plants in which a new plant grows from a fragment or cutting of the parent plant or a specialized reproductive structure.

Anthozoa Class of cnidarians without a medusa stage

Anthozoa is a class of marine invertebrates which includes the sea anemones, stony corals and soft corals. Adult anthozoans are almost all attached to the seabed, while their larvae can disperse as part of the plankton. The basic unit of the adult is the polyp; this consists of a cylindrical column topped by a disc with a central mouth surrounded by tentacles. Sea anemones are mostly solitary, but the majority of corals are colonial, being formed by the budding of new polyps from an original, founding individual. Colonies are strengthened by calcium carbonate and other materials and take various massive, plate-like, bushy or leafy forms.


Budding is a type of asexual reproduction in which a new organism develops from an outgrowth or bud due to cell division at one particular site. The small bulb-like projection coming out from the yeast cell is known as a bud. Since the reproduction is asexual, the newly created organism is a clone and excepting mutations is genetically identical to the parent organism. Organisms such as hydra use regenerative cells for reproduction in the process of budding.

Scleractinia Order of Hexacorallia which produce a massive stiny skeleton

Scleractinia, also called stony corals or hard corals, are marine animals in the phylum Cnidaria that build themselves a hard skeleton. The individual animals are known as polyps and have a cylindrical body crowned by an oral disc in which a mouth is fringed with tentacles. Although some species are solitary, most are colonial. The founding polyp settles and starts to secrete calcium carbonate to protect its soft body. Solitary corals can be as much as 25 cm (10 in) across but in colonial species the polyps are usually only a few millimetres in diameter. These polyps reproduce asexually by budding, but remain attached to each other, forming a multi-polyp colony of clones with a common skeleton, which may be up to several metres in diameter or height according to species.

Aggregating anemone Species of sea anemone

The aggregating anemone, or clonal anemone, is the most abundant species of sea anemone found on rocky, tide swept shores along the Pacific coast of North America. This cnidarian hosts endosymbiotic algae called zooxanthellae that contribute substantially to primary productivity in the intertidal zone. The aggregating anemone has become a model organism for the study of temperate cnidarian-algal symbioses.

Plant reproduction is the production of new offspring in plants, which can be accomplished by sexual or asexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction produces offspring by the fusion of gametes, resulting in offspring genetically different from the parent or parents. Asexual reproduction produces new individuals without the fusion of gametes, genetically identical to the parent plants and each other, except when mutations occur.

<i>Aiptasia</i> Genus of sea anemones

Aiptasia is a genus of a symbiotic cnidarian belonging to the class Anthozoa. Aiptasia is a widely distributed genus of temperate and tropical sea anemones of benthic lifestyle typically found living on mangrove roots and hard substrates. These anemones, as well as many other cnidarian species, often contain symbiotic dinoflagellate unicellular algae of the genus Symbiodinium living inside nutritive cells. The symbionts provide food mainly in the form of lipids and sugars produced from photosynthesis to the host while the hosts provides inorganic nutrients and a constant and protective environment to the algae. Species of Aiptasia are relatively weedy anemones able to withstand a relatively wide range of salinities and other water quality conditions. In the case of A. pallida and A. pulchella, their hardiness coupled with their ability to reproduce very quickly and out-compete other species in culture gives these anemones the status of pest from the perspective of coral reef aquarium hobbyists. These very characteristics make them easy to grow in the laboratory and thus they are extensively used as model organisms for scientific study. In this respect, Aiptasia have contributed a significant amount of knowledge regarding cnidarian biology, especially human understanding of cnidarian-algal symbioses, a biological phenomenon crucial to the survival of corals and coral reef ecosystems. The dependence of coral reefs on the health of the symbiosis is dramatically illustrated by the devastating effects experienced by corals due to the loss of algal symbionts in response to environmental stress, a phenomenon known as coral bleaching.

<i>Corynactis californica</i> Species of sea anemone

Corynactis californica is a brightly colored colonial anthozoan corallimorph. Unlike the Atlantic true sea anemone, Actinia fragacea, that bears the same common name, strawberry anemone, this species is a member of the order Corallimorpharia, and is the only member found in the North American West Coast. Other common names include club-tipped anemone and strawberry corallimorpharian. The anemone can live up to at least 50 meters deep on vertical rock walls, and at the bottom of kelp forests. It is known to carpet the bottom of some areas, like Campbell River in British Columbia, and Monterey Bay in California.


Entomophthora is a fungal genus in the family Entomophthoraceae. Species in this genus are parasitic on flies and other two-winged insects. The genus was circumscribed by German biologist Ferdinand Cohn in 1856.

Sea anemone Marine animals of the order Actiniaria

Sea anemones are the marine, predatory animals of the order Actiniaria. They are named after the anemone, a terrestrial flowering plant, because of the colourful appearance of many. Sea anemones are classified in the phylum Cnidaria, class Anthozoa, subclass Hexacorallia. As cnidarians, sea anemones are related to corals, jellyfish, tube-dwelling anemones, and Hydra. Unlike jellyfish, sea anemones do not have a medusa stage in their life cycle.

Fission, in biology, is the division of a single entity into two or more parts and the regeneration of those parts to separate entities resembling the original. The object experiencing fission is usually a cell, but the term may also refer to how organisms, bodies, populations, or species split into discrete parts. The fission may be binary fission, in which a single organism produces two parts, or multiple fission, in which a single entity produces multiple parts.

Paratomy is a form of asexual reproduction in animals where the organism splits in a plane perpendicular to the antero-posterior axis and the split is preceded by the "pregeneration" of the anterior structures in the posterior portion. The developing organisms have their body axis aligned, i.e., they develop in a head to tail fashion.

Convolutriloba is a genus of marine acoelomorph worms.

Convolutriloba retrogemma is a reddish-brown flatworm 2 mm in length also commonly known as redbug, red planaria, rust flatworm, or simply red flatworm. It is a marine flatworm that gets energy from its endosymbiotic algae or from the consumption of small invertebrates such as copepods and rotifers. Like some other flatworms, it is known to starve coral of sunlight while searching for food on the corals' surface due to its rapid reproduction.


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