Think about this: Every sexual organism gets half of its DNA from its mother and half from its father. How does that happen? If every parent gave its offspring all of its DNA, then the offspring would have double what it needs. That’s why there’s meiosis.
Meiosis is just like mitosis except for a couple of important things. Mitosis happens in all of the cells except for the sex cells. In humans, these are the sperm and egg cells; these cells divide by the process of meiosis. In a human being, meiosis begins with one cell and ends with four. Each cell starts with 46 chromosomes and ends with 23 chromosomes!
Just like mitosis, there are five phases, but the important difference is that those five phases happen twice. The first time they happen, they are called prophase I, metaphase I, anaphase I, and telophase I. Interphase of meiosis actually doubles the number of chromosomes before meiosis starts, so prophase I happens with two copies of each chromosome, for a total of 92 chromosomes (in a human). At the end of telophase I, each cell has 46 chromosomes.
In the second half of meiosis, the phases are called prophase II, metaphase II, anaphase II, and telophase II. This time, each cell begins with 46 chromosomes in prophase II, and like mitosis, ends with 23 chromosomes. Unlike mitosis, however, the chromosomes do not make copies of themselves. The reason that this is important is because these 23 chromosomes will combine with 23 from another cell. If this is a sperm cell, it will combine with an egg to form 46 total chromosomes.
We call the cell that is normally found in the body of a human a diploid cell because it has two copies of each homologous chromosome. We can also represent this by saying that it is “2n”. A haploid cell has only one copy of each homologous chromosome, represented with “n”. Body cells are diploid, but sperm and egg cells are haploid.