A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells is the nucleus, or nuclear envelope, within which the genetic material is carried. The presence of a nucleus gives eukaryotes their name. Most eukaryotic cells also contain other membrane-bound organelles such as mitochondria, chloroplasts and the Golgi apparatus. All large complex organisms are eukaryotes, including animals, plants and fungi. The group also includes many unicellular organisms.

Cell division in eukaryotes is different from that in organisms without a nucleus (Prokaryote). It involves separating the duplicated chromosomes, through movements directed by microtubules. There are two types of division processes. In mitosis, one cell divides to produce two genetically identical cells. In meiosis, which is required in sexual reproduction, one diploid cell (having two instances of each chromosome, one from each parent) undergoes recombination of each pair of parental chromosomes, and then two stages of cell division, resulting in four haploid cells (gametes). Each gamete has just one complement of chromosomes, each a unique mix of the corresponding pair of parental chromosomes.

Eukaryotes appear to be monophyletic, and so make up one of the three domains of life. The two other domains, Bacteria and Archaea, are prokaryotes and have none of the above features. Eukaryotes represent a tiny minority of all living things; even in a human body there are 10 times more microbes than human cells. However, due to their much larger size their collective worldwide biomass is estimated at about equal to that of prokaryotes.

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