We know a cell is a fundamental part of creating life. A human body is nothing but a group of different cells, performing different functions only to serve a common goal. Nevertheless, in biology, we learn about two different main types of cells, i.e., Plant and Animal Cells. Do you often get confused between the two types of cells? If yes, we have made it easy for you to go through the information given below to effectively understand how plant cells differ from animal cells.
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A cell is a smallest and most fundamental unit needed for the existence of life. These cells are responsible for carrying out different life activities. Based on the presence of the number of cells, organisms are classified into two different categories
- Unicellular organisms
- Multicellular organisms
Unicellular organisms are known to exist as the earliest forms of life on the planet, earth. These organisms are called unicellular because their bodies are made up of one cell only. Unicellular organisms include prokaryotes as their main example.
Because unicellular organisms are characterized by having a single cell, cell divisions like mitosis and meiosis do not occur inside them. Rather, these organisms reproduce through asexual methods like budding.
As time passed, more complex organisms evolved from unicellular life. There evolved multicellular organisms. These types of organisms have specialized cells which have modified cell organelles to perform particular functions.
In multicellular organisms, both types of cell division, mitosis, and meiosis take place. It is the primary reason that these organisms evolve in a more complex and complicated manner. Plants and animals are also multicellular organisms which means every feature of multicellular organisms is shared by both plants and animals.
|If you’re confused about animal cells or plant cells, please refer to the definitions below to know more about them.|
Definition and features of animal cells
Animal cells are typical of the eukaryotic cell, enclosed by a cell membrane and containing a membrane-bound nucleus. Apart from the nucleus, the animal cell contains other membrane-bound organelles that have specific functions.
The features of a typical animal cell are-
- Lack of a cell wall
- Absence of chloroplasts and vacuoles
- Structures like flagella, lysosomes, and centrosomes are present. These structures are not present in plant cells
- The primary function of most animal cells is to help in carrying out respiration, reproduction, energy production, and various other life processes.
Definition and features of plant cells
A plant cell is a eukaryotic cell that contains a true nucleus and contains organelles to perform specific functions. Photosynthesis is a natural phenomenon that is associated only with plant cells. It means that animal cells cannot undergo photosynthesis.
Some features that are uniquely associated with plant cells are-
- The presence of a cell wall.
- Cell organelles that take part in photosynthesis like chloroplasts are only present in plant cells.
- Plant cells are also characterized by having large vacuoles that provide shape and rigidity to the cell.
- The phenomenon of plasmolysis only occurs in plant cells.
Plasmolysis is the typical response of a plant cell where the protoplast detaches itself from the cell wall when the cell experiences a loss of turgor pressure.
As we have already read above about the features of both animal and plant cells, it would now be easy to understand the differences between the two. Let us compare the two different types of cells on various parameters to get a thorough idea.
Even though some animals appear bigger than most plants, we cannot conclude that the cell size of both species is the same. Talking about the size comparison, animal cells are usually smaller than plant cells.
Do you know why plant cells are bigger than animal cells?
Because of the presence of a cell wall, most plant cells have a rigid shape, usually rectangular. However, animal cells do not show the same. They have irregular shapes because of the absence of a cell wall.
A cell wall is a typical structure that is present outside the cell membrane. It protects the cell and provides shape and strength to the plasma membrane.
While animal cells only have a cell membrane, plant cells have a cell wall along with a cell membrane.
The cell wall of a plant cell is made above cellulose which gives strength to the plant cell.
Even though the function of the nucleus remains the same in both plant and animal cells, its location in them differs. Having said this, the nucleus in a plant cell is located towards one side of the cell. It is to adjust the size of the vacuole.
Whereas in animal cells, the nucleus is suspended at the centre of the cell.
|Do you know why plant cells are bigger in size than animal cells? It is because plant cells have a large central vacuole.|
Vacuoles are structures filled with fluid. Animal cells are observed to have numerous small vacuoles, while a plant cell is observed to have a large one. In most plant cells, the vacuole can take up to 90% of the total cell space.
Storage of energy
We know the main feature of all types of cells is to produce energy. Even though both plant and animal cells produce their energies, they store them in different forms.
While animal cells store energy in the form of glycogen, plant cells store it in the form of starch.
Lysosomes are the cell organelle that contains enzymes that digest cellular waste. Their main function is to break down large biomolecules and unwanted materials.
It is observed that animal cells possess this particular cell organelle. At the same time, they are rare in plant cells. It is because plant cells have a cell wall that prevents the entry of unwanted substances that they don’t need to get rid of.
Centrosomes are the cell organelles that organize the events leading to cell division. However, only animal cells have it. Plant cells are devoid of centrosomes.
Plastids are referred to as cell organelles like chloroplast and chromoplast. Chloroplasts are the cell structures that are responsible for carrying out photosynthesis, and they remain absent in animal cells.
It means plastids are only associated with plant cells.
Cilia are the hair-like structures found on the surface of most animal cells. Cilia are found in some protozoans and other organisms and help them in providing propulsion.
Talking of these structures, they are only present in animal cells. Plant cells do not have cilia.
Mode of nutrition
Be it any type of cell; they need nutrition to grow and develop into other cells. And as we know, plants make their own food with the help of sunlight. This particular way of making one’s own food makes plant cells autotrophic in nature.
On the other hand, animal cells cannot make their own food, and hence their mode of nutrition is heterotrophic in nature.
|Still not sure about the key difference between the two types of cells? Do not worry! Please refer to the table below to understand the difference in a better way.|
||1. An animal cell is devoid of a cell wall.|
||2. Even though animal cells have vacuoles, they are usually of very small size and are scattered throughout the cell.|
||3. Most animal cells are smaller in size as compared to plant cells.|
||4. Animal cells do not have plastids.|
||5. Animal cells have a centrosome that helps them in cell divisions.|
||6. Some types of animal cells have cilia that help in cell movement.|
||7. Lysosomes are an inclusive part of most animal cells.|
||8. Animal cells are heterotrophic in nature.|
Which cell organelle in plant cells helps them to produce their own food?
Now, if you doubt yourselves over some questions about the difference between animal and plant cells, please refer to the frequently asked questions below. We hope it will make you understand the difference in a better way.
Frequently asked questions about the difference between plant and animal cells
- Which cell organelles are present in the plant cell and not in the animal cell?
There are few cell organelles that are exclusive to plant cells only and are not present in animal cells. They are-
- Plastids (chloroplasts and chromoplasts)
- Cell wall
- Large vacuoles
- Which cell organelles are present only in animal cells and not in plant cells?
Just like there are certain cell organelles that are exclusive to only plant cells, there are some cell structures that are associated only with animal cells. They are-
- Are plant cells visibly different from animal cells?
Yes, both plant cells and animal cells do not look the same. While plant cells are rectangular in shape, most animal cells have irregular shapes.
- Can animal cells carry out photosynthesis?
No, animal cells cannot carry out photosynthesis. It is because animal cells do not have chloroplasts, which is an essential cell organelle that contains chlorophyll.
- Are plant cells usually large in size as compared to animal cells?
Yes, microscopic images have revealed that most plant cells are bigger in size as compared to animal cells.
- Can cells repair themselves?
Yes, both plant and animal cells are capable of repairing themselves. Both the cells can undergo regeneration which is a natural process that allows them to repair and replace cells and tissues.
- Can you tell whether the cell is an animal cell or a plant cell just by looking at them?
Yes, because the cell wall is a distinct part of the plant cell. It makes it easy for anyone to distinguish between the two types of cells.