Asexual reproduction is a mode of reproduction by which offspring arise from a single parent, and inherit the genes of that parent only; it is reproduction which does not involve meiosis, ploidy reduction, or fertilization. The offspring will be exact genetic copies of the parent. A more stringent definition is agamogenesis which is reproduction without the fusion of gametes.
Asexual reproduction is the primary form of reproduction for single-celled organisms such as the archaea, bacteria, and protists. Many plants and fungi reproduce asexually as well. While all prokaryotes reproduce asexually (without the formation and fusion of gametes), mechanisms for lateral gene transfer such as conjugation, transformation and transduction are sometimes likened to sexual reproduction.
A complete lack of sexual reproduction is relatively rare among multicellular organisms, particularly animals. It is not entirely understood why the ability to reproduce sexually is so common among them. Current hypotheses suggest that asexual reproduction may have short term benefits when rapid population growth is important or in stable environments, while sexual reproduction offers a net advantage by allowing more rapid generation of genetic diversity, allowing adaptation to changing environments.
Developmental constraints may underlie why few animals have relinquished sexual reproduction completely in their life-cycles.