Binary Fission: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Lindsy Frazer

Dr. Frazer has taught several college level Science courses and has a master's degree in Human Biology and a PhD in Library and Information Science.

Have you ever had so much homework to do that you wished you could clone yourself? Bacteria and other simple organisms use a process called binary fission to clone themselves. Learn what binary fission is and the steps of the process in this lesson.

Binary Fission

Did you hear the joke about germs? Never mind, I don't want to spread it around!

Part of the reason we worry about spreading germs is that they can multiple, or grow in number, and fast. For example, the bacteria E. coli that can cause food poisoning can make a copy of itself about every 20 minutes!

Prokaryotic cells (pronounced proh-kar-ee-oht-ic), or simple cells like bacteria and other single-cell organisms, use a process called binary fission to make new cells and spread quickly.

During binary fission, a single cell called the parent cell splits into two cells called daughter cells. Each daughter cell gets a full copy of the parent cell's DNA, the genetic instructions for building a cell and making it work. So you can think of binary fission as a cell's way of cooking up more copies of itself and passing on its genetic recipe.

Steps of Binary Fission

How exactly does binary fission work? Well, three steps must be completed for a parent cell to split in two:

To split into two daughter cells a parent cell undergoes binary fission.
binary fission

1.) First, the parent cell's DNA makes copies of itself. The parent cell grows to twice its size to make room for the extra DNA.

2.) Next, the DNA copies move to opposite sides of the cell. You know how they say opposites attract? Well in this case, the opposite is true - ''similars'' separate! Now a full set of DNA is hanging out on each side of the cell.

3.) Finally, the cell begins to constrict, or pinch in the middle. Imagine pinching the middle of a water balloon. Eventually, you'll end up wet! Just like a water balloon, the parent cell eventually splits from the pinching, but instead of bursting open it divides into two daughter cells.

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