Biology quiz!

Do you know any cell biology? Any biology at all? Then you might want to stop reading now. Here’s something to make any competent biology instructor weep.

This is, purportedly, a DIAGRAM OF THE STAGES OF MITOSIS. I dare you to look at it without muttering “What the f…” under your breath, and I wouldn’t blame you if you yelled a few cuss words.

The diagram below is BAD. It’s completely WRONG. DON’T USE IT.

Can you list everything that is wrong in this picture?

Diagram of the stages of mitosis:
two stage division of a cell, producing gametes and halving the number
of chromosomes in its nucleus.
Prophase I: first phase of meiosis.
Metaphase I: second phase of meiosis.
Anaphase I: third phase of meiosis.
Telophase I: fourth phase of meiosis.
Prophase II: fifth phase of meiosis.
Metaphase II: sixth phase of meiosis.
Anaphase II: seventh phase of meiosis.
Telophase II: eight phase of meiosis.
Four cells: last phase of meiosis.

A few hints: that isn’t mitosis, it’s meiosis; the phases are all wrong; the caption is utterly useless; and some idiot put it on the web where students can find it and be confused.

If you’re masochistic, a further browse through the catalog of images there will reveal that the artwork is for crap, the captions and labels are uniformly either useless or erroneous (although you will learn where a cat’s butlock is located, that is no neural fold), and that the whole effort is one of the more gagworthy exercises on the web. Apparently the intent of this site is to help people learn French or English with a kind of dictionary illustrated with cartoons, but it’s utterly horrible.


  1. Dawn says

    Gack! I haven’t had bio since…ulp…1981…(freshman year of college….) and I looked at the picture and my brain said “meiosis” before I had scrolled down enough to read your statement under the picture. I think my bio teacher would be pleased that I remembered that much. To be honest, I couldn’t label the phases correctly anymore though.

  2. H. Humbert says

    Lol! That cat looks like a horned seal. The drawing is what I would expect if the artist hadn’t actually ever seen a cat and relied strictly on second-hand descriptions to guide him.

  3. Reginald Selkirk says

    Confusing mitosis and meiosis must be the biology version of confusing fission and fusion, or magnetism and electricity.

    How bizarre! I mean, that’s almost as bizarre as writing that a child gets 25% of its genes from each parent.

  4. says

    It’s been six years since I took cellular biology, but I’m still able to remember the difference between mitosis and meiosis. For some reason, what I remember is that mitosis yields two resultant cells and meiosis yields four, and deducing from that, I come to the conclusion that mitosis is regular cell division and meiosis is sex cell creation (what are they called again? Gametes?).

    There’s so much bad information out there on the web though, I don’t know what can be done about it. Maybe just always refer people to Wikipedia; at least Wikipedia has lots of eyes on it and some measure of quality control. And if you find something wrong on Wikipedia, well, just fix it.

  5. rp says

    My last class (and pretty much the last time I ever looked at this stuff, since I soon switched to the dark side known as Computing) was 1974, and I recognized this as meiosis. Some of this stuff is so basic, it never really leaves you.

  6. noncarborundum says

    . . . a child gets 25% of its genes from each parent . . .

    Speaking of which, I read a newspaper article yesterday wherein a woman with an autosomal dominant mutation was quoted as saying that her two children had been tested and it was “a miracle” that neither had inherited it.

    Our next-door neighbors have three children, all girls. Now there’s a miracle for you.

    More better education, please.

  7. says

    Well, the main thing is that they’re showing meiosis instead of mitosis. I think they’re problem was they needed an Early Prophase and a Late Prophase. That would shift over the labeling to be somewhat more appropriate.

    Or maybe I’m just giving them too much credit. Yep, that’s it.

  8. noncarborundum says

    The mnemonic for this, by the way, is:

    miTosis has a T, for Two, and it yields two cells.

    mEIOsis has an EIO, which is more than half of the refrain of “Old MacDonald”, and Old MacDonald had a Farm, which starts with F, for Four, and it yields four cells.

  9. says

    The names ‘mitosis’ and ‘meiosis’ have unrelated derivations, and it’s disastrous that they’re so similar. Even geneticists (i.e. me) sometimes say one when they mean the other.

    I don’t teach “the stages of meiosis” at all, because memorizing names and pictures seems to just give students the comfortable illusion that they understand what’s going on.

    Instead I try to get my students to start with understanding what the point of meiosis is, and aim for enough understanding that they can simulate the process by manipulating strips of paper that represent the chromosomes.

  10. Wicked Lad says

    Okay, help a poor, benighted lay-person. Where can we find good descriptions of mitosis and meiosis. Is Wikipedia good enough?

  11. 6EQUJ5 says

    From 9th grade biology, I remember: interphase, prophase, metaphase, anaphase, telophase. That’s been stuck in my head since 1963.

  12. cm says

    You should put the “This is BAD” disclaimer as part of the image itself, since, with Google images, students may actually find your representation of it but not bother to read the surrounding text. Using your favorite graphics program and putting a big red semi-transparent “WRONG” on it as well as a link to this blog post would be good.

  13. says

    I was a bit concerned for myself that I wouldn’t get what was wrong. Fortunately, I remembered just enough from 100-level biology to see the problem.

  14. says

    Dig the electric guitar, which features a “microphone” for some reason… I also like the addition of a “balance button,” which is a feature you certainly don’t find on any but the rare stereo guitar– and even then, it isn’t used for anything like what they describe. I’m completely mystified by this site…

  15. Jewbacchus says

    neural fold = preputium clitoridis?

    The concept isn’t terrible, but goddamn the execution…

  16. says

    The French version seems to label it correctly as meiosis. The English on the whole site is terrible. Somebody is a very, very bad translator.

  17. DrA says

    >”Oh wait! Cells aren’t supposed to be green, are they?”
    >Its obviously plant mitosis

    Sorry but centrioles are clearly shown, and they don’t play any role in cell division in plants. So this isn’t plant cell division. People who color plant cells solid green have never looked at any under a microscope.

  18. says

    “All information appearing on the Website is provided on an “as is” or “as available” basis, without warranty of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to, any implied warranties of fitness for a particular purpose. assumes no responsibility for any error or omission that may occur on the Website.”< [see the help page]

    oh, and btw:

    “If you have questions or suggestions, you can write at We appreciate your interest toward the InfoVisual and we thank you to take the time to provide us with your impressions”

    sic’em, guys!

  19. Ann says

    From the Wikipedia entry on mitosis:
    “Various classes of cells can skip steps depending on the presence of protease inhibitors or if they are in a hurry.”
    WTF? In a hurry? What, they have a big date?

  20. Rey Fox says

    “We have lift-off of the orbiteur!”

    *insert Maurice Chevalier “hoh hoh hoh” laugh here*

  21. Sampo Rassi says

    Finally, a reference work more wildly inaccurate than Wikipedia! Man, that must’ve taken some doing.

  22. J Myers says

    Inaccurate information on the internet?? That’s where I learn everything…. This can’t be happening. Feeling faint…. worldview crumbling….

  23. J Myers says

    Protease inhibitors? I thought those were a type of drug used to treat AIDS… at least they were until we learned that HIV does not cause AIDS (it’s true, it says so all over the internet).

  24. Ragnor says

    I am so ashamed. As a life-long cat owner, I never knew where the butlock was. However did I get an A in my zoology class?

  25. says

    Yes, it makes more sense in French. But if you translate it into Greek, then the cat’s but is:

    Γλουτόσ: σαρκώδες μέρος τοποθετημένο κάτω από την παρακολούθηση.

    Which makes a lot more sense to me.

  26. says

    Hmm, ok, I’ll admit it. I missed the mitosis caption. I was too busy trying to figure out what a nuclear membrane was doing still present in metaphase.

  27. Adam Cuerden says

    My thought processes were something like “Metaphase? Wait, shouldn’t the the nuclear membrane be gone by then and the chromosomes lines up in the middle by then? And then telophase is supposed to have the cell membrane starting to pinch off … holy crap, they’re doing meiosis.”

  28. Adam Cuerden says

    I have to admit I didn’t spot the big error at first, largely because I was too distracted by all the other jaw-dropping boneheadedness: “Wait, metaphase? Wait, shouldn’t the the nuclear membrane be gone by then and the chromosomes lines up in the middle by then? And then telophase is supposed to have the cell membrane starting to pinch off … holy crap, a second division?! This is meiosis!”

    …Well, it *isn’t* meiosis, but you take my point.

  29. Kseniya says

    The English on the whole site is terrible. Somebody is a very, very bad translator.

    Possible that speak with ascension behind to author lacking sharp data?

  30. Melissa G says

    “Oh wait! Cells aren’t supposed to be green, are they?”

    >It’s obviously plant mitosis

    Sorry but centrioles are clearly shown, and they don’t play any role in cell division in plants. So this isn’t plant cell division.

    Incorrect cell division… green, animal cells… this can only mean one thing: Martian Manhunter cell division.

    (Jeez, no wonder they died out.)

  31. says

    That picture’s a gem!!

    I’ve found in our homeschooling adventures that sometimes the most error-ridden and screwed up material can provide the most learning.

    I’m saving that and stuffing it away until my kids get to that. Then I’ll pull it out and ask them to tell me what’s wrong with it.

    Great learning opportunity. :)

  32. says

    Now we’ve done it.

    When you google for ‘Mitosis’, this graphic is now the first result in the small group of pictures google shows above the text results.

  33. Darby says

    There is a lot of bad information around. I occasionally watch the official NY Regents public television review sessions for the exams, done by “master teachers,” just to get my blood pumping – you can’t get through ten minutes without them getting something wrong. Deliver us from teachers with only 3 science courses (you can get certified in NY on 12 hours of concentration courses)!

    Interwebwise, pick a page from The best I can find out is that some Atlanta engineer has put it together. It links to one of my pages on taxonomy, which has to be confusing to users, since it gives a bunch of different rules than my site. And it has some rules right (there’s a lot of cut-and-paste) but then violates them in other sections.

  34. pg says

    It’s not just the biology information that is wrong. Their sail diagram has the luff (one of the three sides of a sail) mislabeled. Correctly distinguishing between the luff and the leech is very basic, and they can’t even get that right. I wonder if the authors are being deliberately incorrect about everything.

  35. says

    On the subject of mnemonics, I tell a story about a cat (a G-CAT, of course) who leaves an unwelcome gift on your front doorstep (P-MAT).

    And, of course, mitosis is ‘my toe’ while meiosis is ‘my O’. What? Offspring, of course—what did you think (wink, wink) an ‘O’ was?

  36. msambos says

    Much easier to indicate what’s right: There are four cells at the last stage. I’ve long since given up teaching meiosis right after mitosis, as it appears in the textbook. My students (7th grade) are much less confused when we learn mitosis as part of cells and meiosis MUCH later when we do genetics.

    Yes, the Web is a wonderful font of misinformation. Do try to get someone to edit that site.

  37. Kevin Whitefoot says

    I can’t see any hint here that anyone had the courtesy to point out the error to the maintainer of the page. Nonetheless it has been fixed.

    I think some people here are exaggerating the problem a little, although I do agree that the English stinks. Anyway if you see a problem why not get it corrected instead of making near hysterical complaints about it.

  38. blahman says

    1. if its mitosis, there is no “prophase I prophase II” its just one cycle of prophase, metaphase, etc. otherwise it would be meiosis
    2. the cell doesn’t divide right away just after it divides the first time, it has allows for a nuclear membrane to form around the newly duplicated daughter chromosomes.
    3. the steps are labeled wrong prophase would start from the 2nd picture, metaphase would be the 3rd picture, anaphase is 4th picture, telophase and cytokenisis would be the 5th and 6th pictures respectively.

  39. blahman says

    also, the chromosomes are wrong. If there are 4 chromosomes in the nucleus (which i think this picture has) its supposed to have 8 sister chromatin in total, and they are supposed to be drawn in a way to show that they are connected, and they arent supposed to be shown separated until anaphase

  40. brianju says

    i think what you mean is that each chromosome becomes 2 sister chromatin that are conencted that form after the nuclear memebrane disappears