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Sporophyte: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Are Sporophytes?
  • 0:33 Function of a Sporophyte
  • 1:22 How Is a Sporophyte Produced?
  • 1:48 Sporophytes in Plants
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Lynn Swafford

Lynn has a BS and MS in biology and has taught many college biology courses.

Plants have a life cycle in which they alternate between a generation with one set of chromosomes in its cells and a generation called a sporophyte with two sets of chromosomes in its cells. In this lesson, learn more about plant sporophytes.

What Are Sporophytes?

All plants and some algae have a life cycle in which they undergo alternation of generations. This process involves a haploid multicellular generation called a gametophyte and a diploid multicellular generation called a sporophyte. Haploid means having only one set of chromosomes in your cells and is usually written as 'n.' Diploid means having two sets of chromosomes and is indicated by '2n.' Let's take a closer look at the sporophyte generation.

Function of a Sporophyte

The job of a sporophyte is to produce spores. This makes sense because 'spore' is part of the word 'sporophyte.' The 'phyte' part just means plant. So, a sporophyte is a plant that has spores.

Spores are haploid reproductive cells. Remember, a sporophyte is a diploid organism, so in order to produce haploid cells with half the number of chromosomes, meiosis must occur.

Meiosis is a type of cell division that cuts the number of chromosomes in a cell in half. In sporophytes, it occurs in structures called sporangia (sporangium is singular). Once spores are produced in a sporangium, they are often released into the air. A single haploid spore will undergo mitosis, or cell division without a reduction in chromosome number, to become a multicellular haploid gametophyte.

How Is a Sporophyte Produced?

A sporophyte is created by sexual reproduction of the gametophyte generation. Gametophytes make haploid unicellular gametes, or sperm and eggs. When a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell, this is called fertilization. It creates a unicellular diploid zygote. This zygote undergoes many rounds of mitosis to become multicellular. We now have a multicellular diploid organism, or sporophyte.

Sporophytes in Plants

Let's look a little closer at the sporophytes in different groups of plants.

Nonvascular Plants

In nonvascular plants like mosses, the sporophyte generation is not the dominant generation. This means that the sporophyte is smaller is size and shorter-lived than the gametophyte generation. When you think of a moss, you probably picture a tiny green leafy plant, like the one shown here. This is the gametophyte generation.

Moss gametophyte and sporophyte generations and an up-close view of moss sporangia
Moss Gametophytes and Sporophytes with Sporangia

You only see the sporophyte generation for a brief time after sexual reproduction. A moss sporophyte is usually a tall stalk with a round sporangium on top. The sporophyte grows out of the gametophyte and is completely dependent upon it for nutrients.

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