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I've always wondered why cells have only one nucleus, as having multiple would seemingly prevent mutation. Are there examples of organisms with multiple nucleuses? If not, is there a reason?

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    $\begingroup$ From a certain standpoint, your own cells have more than one nucleus, in the sense that they contain mitochondria. $\endgroup$ – Denis de Bernardy Jan 6 '18 at 11:30
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Are there examples of cells with more than one nucleus?

Yes, they are called Multinucleate cells. There are two types of multinucleated cells

  • Syncytia
  • Coenocytes

I highly recommend having a look at this answer for the definitions.

Examples of Syncytia include

  • Osteoclasts
  • Skeletal muscle fibers (thanks @kmm)

Examples of Coenocytes include

  • Codium (Thanks @GerardoFurtado; see picture below)
  • Blastoderms early in the development of a fruit fly

Are there examples of organisms with multiple nucleuses?

Side note: The plural of nucleus is nuclei

In many fungi, during sexual reproduction, a fusion of cytoplasm happen early in the mycelium but a fusion of the nucleus happens only very late (just before sporulation). This is a type of Coenocytic mycelium. In these species, non-negligible fractions of their cells are multinucleated.

There are endosymbiotic and endoparasitic eukaryotes in other eukaryotes that would result in a cell containing several nuclei but that would not count I would guess as the nuclei belong to different species.


Picture of Codium. The entire algea is a single multinucleated cell.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ "I doubt there are species where all cells are constantly multinucleated".. except for the gamete phase, that's exactly the situation for several species of algae and protozoa, in which all cells are always multinucleated (+1 though). $\endgroup$ – user24284 Jan 4 '18 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the way you created your list may not be very didactic to a layman: all multinucleate cells are either a syncytium or a coenocyte. There is no other category. However, in your list, it seems that there is more... For instance, skeletal muscle cells are syncytia. have a look at my answer here: biology.stackexchange.com/a/64439/24284 . I'm seeing that the mistake is from the Wikipedia page you shared: osteoclasts are syncytia. $\endgroup$ – user24284 Jan 4 '18 at 22:33
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There is a branch of life called the Diplomonads, most of which have two nuclei. They are single cell organisms and an early offshoot of the eukaryotic linage. A good example is Giardia lamblia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diplomonad Giardia lamblia

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According to this article The hairy beast with seven fuzzy sexes

Tetrahymena thermophila has two: a large macronucleus and a small micronucleus. The macronucleus controls the everyday functions of the cell, while the micronucleus deals with its complicated sex life. In fact this is true for all ciliates.

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When a "slime mold" enters the "plasmodium" phase n cells merge together to form one cell with n nuclei. This means plasmodiums can have thousands or tens of thousands of nuclei...

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Skeletal muscles (striated) are multi-nucleated-have more than one nucleus per cell as they are formed as a result of the fusion of myoblasts.

Reference- Skeletal Muscle: Form and Function (2006) By Brian R. MacIntosh, Phillip F. Gardiner, Alan J. McComas

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