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I found such a clause:

The general principle is that mitosis creates somatic cells and meiosis creates germ cells.

However, I cannot agree. Each gametogonium needs to go through mitosis before it can enter meiosis I. So in that case mitosis is happening with germ cells so the clause is false.

I would rephrase the sentence to be

The general principle is that meiosis creates only germ cells with the possibility of a decrease in chromosome number, while mitosis can create both somatic and germ cells while the ploidy stays constant.

Ok, not perfect.

How would you say the main general difference between mitosis and meiosis?

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In plants germ cells are created by mitosis and meiosis creates haploid cells that divide many times before producing gamets so both statements are not generally true. – Marta Cz-C Feb 15 '12 at 21:40
@MartaCz-C Please, propose your own below. Can be many sentences. Can be in the form like: for this y and for that y. It helps me to think probably other way the problem. – Masi Feb 15 '12 at 21:44
@MartaCz-C Is my sentente, the second one, right for other species if we exclude plants from it? - Is it right for human? – Masi Feb 15 '12 at 21:53
up vote 7 down vote accepted

If the question is about the one and only most important difference between mitosis and meiosis, then the answer "meiosis reduces ploidy" is probably correct. But if the list of important differences is open, it would be critical to add that mitosis generates identical cells (identical to each other and any ancestral cells, barring rare new mutations), while meiosis generates genetic diversity by creating cells, which are all different from each other and from any ancestral cells. It does so by independent segregation of homologs and by crossingover within chromosomes.

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According to all I've learned and heard, the only thing consistent about meiosis is that it reduces ploidy because homologous chromosomes are separated. (Not necessarily diploid to haploid - it can be polyploid as well, although odd ploidies usually seem to mess it up.)

Mitosis on the other hand mainly serves to separate two copies of a genome into different cells.

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