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Reproductive cell capable of developing into a new individual without fusing with another reproductive cell. Spores thus differ from gametes, which must fuse in pairs in order to create a new individual. Spores are agents of nonsexual reproduction; gametes are agents of sexual reproduction. Spores are produced by bacteria, fungi (seefungus), and green plants. Bacterial spores serve largely as a resting, or dormant, stage in the life cycle, preserving the bacterium through periods of unfavorable conditions. Many bacterial spores are highly durable and can germinate even after years of dormancy. Fungal spores serve a function similar to that of seeds in plants; they germinate and grow into new individuals under suitable conditions of moisture, temperature, and food availability. Among green plants (all of which have a life cycle characterized by alternation of generations), spores are the reproductive agents of the nonsexual generation (sporophyte), giving rise to the sexual generation (gametophyte).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on spore, visit Britannica.com.