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Maybe I am not using the correct search keywords in Google, but I cannot seem to find anything beyond basic information taught in schools about fertilisation of the egg by the sperm.

After the sperm has fertilised the ovum, I know that the zygote starts with one cell, then divides into two cells, then four cells and so on, but what initialises cell division, and how does the cell divide?

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Actually an ovum doesn't ever start cell division because once it is fertilized by a sperm the combination of the two cells is call a zygote. In humans, the zygote proceeds with the many steps following fertilization leading to the first division; this takes on the order of 24 to 30 hours. At that point the set of cells may be termed an embryo or various other technical terms. The succeeding cell divisions occur by the normal cell division mechanism, which is called mitosis. In the context of the development of the human embryo, an early stage cell division is often called cleavage.

More details are available from the links in the above. For greater technical depth on the initial stages of the division of the zygote, you might want to see this article.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing me in the direction I need to go in order to answer my question. Although I am not yet 100% sure on all this, I am not sure I can completely accept your answer as of yet. It's the mitosis part that's causing me an issue. I may be wrong, but I am under the impression from reading that mitosis (or even cleavage) is not the complete mechanism/process of cell division. I need to get this all straight in my head before I upvote or accept this answer. $\endgroup$ – Chris Rogers Oct 22 '19 at 12:00

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