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Name: Pamela
Status: Educator
Grade:  9-12
Location: FL
Country: United States
Date: March 2005

My students would like to know why the two new cells are named "daughter cells". Did a scientist give them this name? Was it a random choice? We know that the cells represent a duplication of the DNA in mitosis. They could have been named "son cells" (says one young man).

Dear Pamela,

I can't say exactly where this convention originated either, but I was thinking that it might be because they're the result of asexual binary fission. Although it is asexual by definition, if the parental cell is considered to be the "mother" cell, then the progeny would theoretically have to be of the same "gender", i.e. "female daugthers", since their genetic material is essentially identical.

However, I've discovered that the decay particles from radioactive elements are also eferred to as "daughters" of the "parental" radioisotope, & I don't believe that any ender-based rationale could possibly be ascribed to that situation.

So I've come to agree w/ Dr. Baker's previous suggestion that "it was probably arbitrary like referring to ships as female", although I won't tell if anyone wants to try spreading the rumor that it's due to the "mother-daughter" relationship that I suggested....

Thanks for the interesting question,

Jeff Buzby, Ph.D.
CHOC Research Institute

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