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Life cycle of a typical fern:

1. A diploid sporophyte phase produces haploid spores by meiosis (a process of cell division which reduces the number of chromosomes by a half).

2. A spore grows into a haploid gametophyte by mitosis (a process of cell division which maintains the number of chromosomes). The gametophyte typically consists of a photosynthetic prothallus.

3. The gametophyte produces gametes (often both sperm and eggs on the same prothallus) by mitosis.

4. A mobile, flagellate sperm fertilizes an egg that remains attached to the prothallus.

5. The fertilized egg is now a diploid zygote and grows by mitosis into a diploid sporophyte (the typical "fern" plant).

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