While all prokaryotes reproduce without the formation and fusion of gametes, mechanisms for lateral gene transfer such as conjugation, transformation and transduction can be likened to sexual reproduction in the sense of genetic recombination in meiosis. A complete lack of sexual reproduction is relatively rare among multicellular organisms, particularly animals. It is not entirely understood why the ability to reproduce sexually is so common among them. Current hypotheses suggest that asexual reproduction may have short term benefits when rapid population growth is important or in stable environments, while sexual reproduction offers a net advantage by allowing more rapid generation of genetic diversity, allowing adaptation to changing environments. Developmental constraints may underlie why few animals have relinquished sexual reproduction completely in their life-cycles. Another constraint on switching from sexual to asexual reproduction would be the concomitant loss of meiosis and the protective recombinational repair of DNA damage afforded as one function of meiosis.
An important form of fission is binary fission, where the parent organism is replaced by two daughter organisms, because it literally divides in two. Only prokaryotes (the archaea and the bacteria) reproduce asexually through binary fission. Eukaryotes (such as protists and unicellular fungi) may reproduce in a functionally similar manner by mitosis; most of these are also capable of sexual reproduction.
Multiple fission at the cellular level occurs in many protists, e.g. sporozoans and algae. The nucleus of the parent cell divides several times by mitosis, producing several nuclei. The cytoplasm then separates, creating multiple daughter cells.
In apicomplexans, multiple fission, or schizogony appears either as merogony, sporogony or gametogony. Merogony results in merozoites, which are multiple daughter cells, that originate within the same cell membrane, sporogony results in sporozoites, and gametogony results in microgametes.
Some cells split via budding (for example baker's yeast), resulting in a "mother" and "daughter" cell. The offspring organism is smaller than the parent. Budding is also known on a multicellular level; an animal example is the hydra, which reproduces by budding. The buds grow into fully matured individuals which eventually break away from the parent organism.