Binary Fission: Definition, Steps & Examples Video

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  • 0:01 Binary Fission Definition
  • 0:42 Steps in Binary Fission
  • 1:27 Pros & Cons of Asexual…
  • 2:27 Bacterial Examples of…
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Bacteria are all around you, some make you sick, some are helpful. This lesson will examine one way bacteria reproduce called binary fission. It will also give you some examples of bacteria you may encounter.

Binary Fission Definition

You are trying to get some sleep but your throat hurts and you have a fever. Inside your body, millions of bacteria are multiplying, making you feel worse and worse. At a time like this, you might not be thinking, I wonder how those bacteria reproduce? but microbiologists, or scientists who study microbes, like bacteria, have asked that question and many more.

There are many ways in which bacteria can reproduce, including binary fission, which means a single cell splitting into two cells. Sounds simple enough, right? Although binary fission is not as complicated as other means of reproduction, there are few things we'll have to go over before you have a firm grasp on the topic.

Steps in Binary Fission

Let's took a look at the steps involved for binary fission. (FYI: Bacterium is the singular for bacteria.)

Step 1:

The bacterium cell must copy its DNA so the new cells will have DNA. DNA or, deoxyribonucleic acid, has all of the information the bacterium will need to survive, so it is important it gets copied. The DNA is tightly wound so it is in a neat package called a chromosome.

Steps 2 and 3:

The bacterium now grows larger. This allows for some separation between the two DNA copies that are inside the cell. A division develops in the middle of the bacterium. This division eventually completely divides the bacterium in half. This is called cytokinesis.

Step 4:

Each cell is now called a daughter cell and they separate.

The steps of binary fission
binary fission

Binary fission results in two identical daughter cells. This is a type of asexual reproduction, or creating genetically identical offspring. If humans were able to reproduce using binary fission, it would look something like this: your mother or father would grow larger, and inside all of his or her DNA would be copied. Eventually your parent would split in half creating an identical clone.

Pros and Cons of Asexual Reproduction

So what are the pros and cons of this type of reproduction?


Asexual reproduction is fast compared to sexual reproduction. Those bacteria in your throat want to reproduce quickly so they can spread to all your friends and family!


If all of the bacteria in your throat are genetically identical, then any changes in their environment may put the entire population at risk. For example, let's say you start taking antibiotics. If those antibiotics kill one bacterium, it will kill all of the bacteria. This may be good for you but not the bacteria that are making you sick!

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