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Cleavage vs. Mitosis: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 29, 2023
Cleavage is rapid cell division without growth in early embryos; mitosis is the process where a single cell divides to produce two identical daughter cells.

Key Differences

Cleavage and mitosis are fundamental processes in cell biology. While cleavage specifically refers to the rapid cell divisions seen in early embryos without significant growth between divisions, mitosis is a broader term that describes the division of a single nucleus into two genetically identical daughter nuclei.
During cleavage, the early embryo divides successively to produce many cells, but the overall size of the embryo doesn't increase substantially. In contrast, mitosis in somatic cells is typically followed by cytokinesis and is associated with growth and repair, leading to an increase in the overall size or number of cells in an organism.
Cleavage typically lacks the G1 and G2 phases seen in the cell cycle of somatic cells, making the process faster. On the other hand, mitosis is just one part of the cell cycle, which also includes G1, S, and G2 phases, allowing time for the cell to grow and DNA to replicate.
In cleavage, the resulting cells (or blastomeres) become progressively smaller with each division. In mitosis, each division results in daughter cells that, under normal circumstances, are identical in size and genetic content to the original cell.
Both cleavage and mitosis are essential for life. While cleavage ensures the rapid multiplication of cells during the early developmental stages of an embryo, mitosis ensures that organisms can grow, repair damaged tissues, and reproduce .

Comparison Chart


Rapid cell division in embryos
Division producing two identical daughter cells

Growth between divisions

Minimal or none
Typically present

Phases in the cell cycle

Lacks G1 and G2 phases
Includes G1, S, G2, and M phases

Resulting cell size

Cells get progressively smaller
Daughter cells usually same size as parent

Cleavage and Mitosis Definitions


Cleavage divisions are essential for early embryonic development.
Abnormalities during cleavage can affect the proper development of the embryo.


Mitosis occurs in somatic cells and is essential for growth and repair.
When you get a cut, the surrounding skin cells replicate via mitosis to heal the wound.


In cleavage, the resulting cells, or blastomeres, decrease in size with each division.
As cleavage progresses, the blastomeres in the sea urchin embryo become notably smaller.


Mitosis is the division of a single nucleus into two genetically identical daughter nuclei.
Human skin cells undergo mitosis to replace old or damaged cells.


Cleavage lacks typical cell growth phases, making the process swift.
The rapidity of cleavage can be attributed to the absence of certain cell cycle phases.


Mitosis is a crucial part of the cell cycle, ensuring genetic continuity.
Mitosis ensures that each daughter cell inherits the same genetic information.


Cleavage results in an increase in cell number without a significant increase in volume.
Despite multiple rounds of cleavage, the zebrafish embryo remains roughly the same size.


Mitosis is a precise process ensuring genetic material is evenly distributed to daughter cells.
Errors in mitosis can lead to cells with an abnormal number of chromosomes.


Cleavage refers to the rapid and successive cell divisions in early embryos.
During the early stages of development, the frog embryo undergoes cleavage to form a ball of cells.


Mitosis leads to the production of two identical daughter cells from a single parent cell.
After mitosis, the two resulting cells are genetically identical to the original cell.


How does mitosis differ from meiosis?

Mitosis produces two identical daughter cells, while meiosis results in four genetically diverse sex cells.

Is mitosis only observed in animals?

No, mitosis occurs in both plants and animals.

Why is cleavage essential in early development?

Cleavage rapidly increases cell numbers, setting the stage for further embryonic development.

Do cells grow in size during cleavage?

No, in cleavage, the overall embryo size remains roughly constant as cells divide.

At what stage does mitosis occur in the cell cycle?

Mitosis is a phase in the cell cycle, following G2 and preceding cytokinesis.

How many divisions occur during cleavage?

Cleavage involves multiple rapid divisions, with the number varying among organisms.

Where in the body can we observe mitosis?

Mitosis can be observed in all actively growing and repairing tissues.

What is cleavage?

Cleavage is rapid cell division without growth seen in early embryos.

Why don't cells grow between cleavage divisions?

Cleavage lacks the G1 and G2 growth phases, so cells divide rapidly without significant growth.

Does cleavage only happen in the early stages of development?

Cleavage is predominantly an early developmental event, setting the stage for further differentiation.

What are blastomeres in cleavage?

Blastomeres are the cells resulting from cleavage divisions in an embryo.

Does mitosis always result in cell division?

Mitosis leads to the division of the nucleus, usually followed by cytokinesis, which divides the cell.

How do blastomeres relate to cleavage?

Blastomeres are the product of cleavage divisions in early embryos.

Are mitotic cells always genetically identical?

Ideally, yes, but errors can lead to genetic variations or mutations.

What ensures identical daughter cells in mitosis?

Proper segregation of chromosomes ensures each daughter cell gets identical genetic information.

Can cleavage be seen in all animals?

While cleavage is common in many animals, the specifics can vary based on the species and egg type.

Can mitosis repair damaged tissues?

Yes, mitosis allows cells to replicate and replace damaged or worn-out cells.

Is cleavage unique to vertebrates?

No, cleavage is observed in various organisms, not just vertebrates.

What ensures the accuracy of mitosis?

Checkpoints and molecular machinery work together to ensure the fidelity of mitosis.

Is DNA replication part of mitosis?

No, DNA replication occurs in the S phase, which precedes mitosis.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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