We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is an Embryo?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 21, 2024
Our promise to you
All The Science is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All The Science, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

An embryo is an organism in the early stages of development which cannot survive on its own. The precise definition of it varies; in humans, for example, a fertilized egg may be considered an embryo until around the eighth week of pregnancy, at which point it is termed a fetus. Embryos in animals typically indicate any pre-birth stage of development, including those in wombs or eggs. Plant embryos can take a number of different forms, though they are commonly encased in seeds.


The term “embryo” is only used to refer to "eukaryote" or multi-cellular organisms. Typically, people use the term specifically to refer to diploid eukaryotes, which have a complete set of genetic material from two donors. This genetic material takes the form of haploid sperm and eggs; a haploid cell only contains half a set of chromosomes, meaning that it cannot develop into anything unless it is combined with another one.

Formation of an embryo starts at fertilization. When an egg and sperm meet, they form a "zygote." A zygote is a single diploid cell, created through the merging of two haploid cells. After fertilization, the zygote starts to divide, laying the groundwork for the mature organism which will eventually be born, hatched, or grown. When this division begins, zygotes turns into embryos.

Human Development

The status of embryos in humans is rather complex. At conception, a human egg and sperm become a zygote, which begins to divide, becoming an embryo. There is a great deal of debate regarding the definition of human embryos in terms of "life." This debate has led to conflict in many parts of the world, especially when it comes to terminating a pregnancy. As a human embryo matures, it starts to turn into a recognizable form, at which point people refer to it as a fetus.

Development in Animals

Embryos cannot survive independently because they lack the tissues, body structure, and organs needed to do so. The parent of an embryo must feed it and watch out for it until it reaches viability. In mammals, this is accomplished by incubating it inside the body and nourishing it with nutrients from the parents. Egg-laying animals provide the embryo with a rich layer of nutrients encased in a hard shell, which protects it until it is ready to be born.

Plant Embryos

Development of embryos in plants depends upon the way in which different species replicate. Those that utilize seeds include small structures that turn into the leaves, roots, and stem, which make up the embryos of these plants. Other species produce embryos as tiny plants that grow along the larger plant before separating off on their own to continue growing.

All The Science is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All The Science researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon995045 — On Mar 27, 2016

Is labor hard? It's my first pregnancy. Just asking. I really want to try.

By anon274984 — On Jun 15, 2012

I have heard that a stem cell is like an embryo and killing it can kill a potential life?

By atulsharma — On Feb 08, 2012

I want to know about mendel's experiment by video.

By Jay79 — On Feb 22, 2011

Snoopy: What is your view on the condition of rape? I don't understand how your logic works. Not all pregnancies are "on purpose" whether you want to admit it or not. Secondly, what if a pregnancy is going to present imminent death to both mother and child due to health concerns? Should they both die, or how should that be approached?

By anon134745 — On Dec 15, 2010

An embryo is a potential life form but it's not a life at the same time.

By Snoopy123 — On Jun 03, 2010


Although you are right about a human embryo not being self reliable, were you at birth? A healthy embryo will have a beating heart visible on an ultrasound monitor. And slowly but surely it will develop into a baby human being; it will be listening, smiling and even hiccupping inside the mother's womb.

I do not believe in accidental pregnancies, I believe in negligent sexual activity. If a woman is not ready to have a child, she is the one ultimately responsible to protect herself. Abortion is terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Whether it’s a little embryo, fetus or baby, it will be destroyed to prevent birth.

By Prayers2Heal — On Jun 03, 2010

The fact that a human embryo is unable to support itself is one of the arguments pro-choice supporters use to justify aborting a pregnancy. Without a constant supply of nutrients and protection an embryo has no chance of survival. This is the base of the big debate; although the egg has been fertilized and a baby may form, no actual life can be detected. Is having an abortion this early in a pregnancy considered murder?

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All The Science, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.