The process in cell division in sexually reproducing organisms that reduces the number of chromosomes from diploid to haploid (half the original number). Meiosis involves two consecutive divisions of the nucleus and leads to the production of reproductive cells (gametes) in animals and to the formation of spores in plants, fungi, and most algae (the haploid spores grow into organisms that produce gametes by mitosis). Meiosis begins when the chromosomes, which have already duplicated, condense along the center of the nucleus, and pairs of homologous chromosomes undergo crossing over , whereby some of their genetic material is exchanged. The pairs of chromosomes then separate and move to opposite ends of the cell, and the cell itself divides into two cells. In the second stage, each of these two cells also divides into two cells. Meiosis thus produces four cells, each of which contain half the number of chromosomes as the original cell. Some or all of the four cells may become functional gametes or spores.