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a stage in the development of the embryo of multicellular animals culminating in cleavage.
The structure of the embryo in the blastula stage depends on the structure of the egg and type of cleavage. Radial cleavage (echinoderms, lancelets, amphibians, sturgeon) gives rise to a coeloblastula, a spherical embryo with a cavity, or blastocoel, which is filled with a fluid differing in chemical composition from the medium surrounding the embryo. The blastocoel is sometimes in the center of the blastula but is generally shifted to the animal (upper) part of the embryo. The blastular wall, the blastoderm, consists of one, several, or many rows of cells. In animals with the spiral type of cleavage (most mollusks and some worms, for example), the blastula is formed without a cavity, a sterroblastula. Animals with incomplete (partial) discoidal cleavage (bony fishes, sharks, reptiles, birds) form a discoblastula whose cavity is reduced; the upper wall consists of many rows of cells while the lower uncleaved wall contains the yolk. Partial superficial cleavage (some arthropods) gives rise to a blastula in which the cavity is filled with yolk.
Cleavage of eggs in mammals and man ends in the formation of blastocysts rather than blastulas.