AskDefine | Define gametangium

Dictionary Definition

gametangium n : cell or organ in which gametes develop [also: gametangia (pl)]

Extensive Definition

A gametangium (plural: gametangia) is an organ or cell in which gametes are produced that is found in many multicellular protists, algae, fungi, and the gametophytes of plants. In contrast to gametogenesis in animals, a gametangium is a haploid structure and formation of gametes does not involve meiosis.

Types of gametangia

Depending on the type of gamete produced in a gametangium, several types can be distinguished.


Female gametangia are most commonly called archegonia. They produce egg cells and are the sites for fertilization. Archegonia are common in algae and primitive plants as well as gymnosperms. In flowering plants, they are replaced by the embryo sac inside the ovule.


The male gametangia are most commonly called antheridia. They produce sperm cells that they release for fertilization. Antheridia producing non-motile sperm (spermatia) are called spermatangia. Some antheridia do not release their sperm. For example, the oomycete antheridium is a syncytium with many sperm nuclei and fertilization occurs via fertilization tubes growing from the antheridium and making contact with the egg cells. Antheridia are common in the gametophytes in "lower" plants such as bryophytes, ferns, cycads and ginkgo. In "higher" plants such as conifers and flowering plants, they are replaced by pollen grains.


In isogamy, the gametes look alike and cannot be classified into "male" or "female." For example, in zygomycetes, two gametangia (single cells at the end of hyphae) form upon contact with each other and fuse into a zygote.
gametangium in German: Gametangium
gametangium in Latvian: Gametangiji
gametangium in Dutch: Gametangium
gametangium in Polish: Gametangium
gametangium in Russian: Гаметангий
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