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Zygote Lesson for Kids: Definition, Formation & Facts

Instructor: Rachel Torrens

Rachel obtained a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Grove City College. She then earned her Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Nursing from Thomas Jefferson University. For over 8 years, Rachel has practiced as a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, and taught science to elementary aged students.

The making of a new animal is a long process, but the very first step is the formation of a zygote. In this lesson, learn the definition of a zygote, find out how exactly it's formed, and explore some other fun facts.

It Takes Two Halves to Make One Whole

Have you ever eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Delicious! Now, if I handed you a slice of bread with grape jelly would you say 'Oh boy! A peanut butter and jelly sandwich'? Of course not. Likewise, if I gave you a slice of bread with peanut butter, you'd probably think 'Where's the other half?' This is because it takes both halves to make one whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Well, the same is true in the making of a zygote, or the first cell of a new animal. Let's learn about the two halves that combine to make one whole zygote.

The Formation of a Zygote

It takes two gametes to form a zygote. A gamete is a cell that has half of the genetic material needed to make a new animal. A female gamete is an ovum, and a male gamete is a sperm. The ovum has half of the genetic material needed to make a new animal, and the sperm has half of the genetic material needed to make a new animal.

So when the ovum and sperm join together in a process we call fertilization, the two halves become a whole! In other words, when the male gamete combines with the female gamete, the result is a zygote. And that zygote is the first cell of a new animal that's being made.

The ovum (left) is about to be fertilized by the sperm (right). When these two gametes combine, a zygote will be formed.
ovum and sperm

For example, a mommy monkey has an ovum (a female gamete) that contains half of the genetic material needed to make a baby monkey. A daddy monkey has a sperm (a male gamete) that also contains half of the genetic material needed to make a baby monkey. So when the mommy monkey's ovum and daddy monkey's sperm combine in fertilization, the zygote, or first cell, is formed because now there's a whole set of genetic material to make a new monkey!

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