Differences Between Plant and Animal Cells

Plant and animal cells share many similarities, but there are big differences that make them easily identifiable under a microscope to the trained eye. Animal cells don`t have a dividing cell wall like plant cells do, but both do have plasma membranes. Plants cells use photosynthesis from the sun, which requires them to have chloroplast filled with chlorophyll to complete this function; animal cells do not have chloroplasts. Chlorophyll also helps make plants green.

Animal cells take on a round shape while plant cells form rectangular shapes. Animal cells contain centrioles, long tubular structures that aid in cell mitosis, or cell division, not found in plant cells. Plant cells don`t move about like animal cells can and plants have large vacuoles in the center of the cell that encompasses up to 90 percent of the cell`s internal size. Animal cells have multiple small vacuoles that provides storage to the animal cell.


Vacuoles in animal cells perform different functions from those found in plant cells; they store ions, water and waste. Plant vacuoles store water and the pressure caused helps establish the rigidity of the cell. Animal plant cells don`t have this rigidity and can adopt different shapes. One type of animal cell, the phagocytic cell, also has the ability to absorb other structures. This is not found in plant cells.

The human animal contains up to 210 different cell types once the body has reached adulthood, but plants have far less cell diversity. Characterized by three different types of cells—parenchyma cells, schlerenchyma cells and collenchyma cells—plants cells are defined by what the cell does. Schlerenchyma cells provide mechanical support to the plant, collenchyma cells only have a primary wall and are available during the cell`s maturity. while parenchyma cells provide support for photosynthesis, storage and other functions.

Eukaryotic Cells

Both animal and plant cells are classified as eukaryotic cells, meaning both cell types are complex in their construction. Plant and animal cells are two of the most common eukaryotic cells that help to define the differences between plants and animals cells from fungi or protists, microscopic eukaryotic-celled creatures. During cell division, plant cells separate the DNA that was replicated during mitosis without centrioles. A central plate is formed instead that separates the newly formed cells, which also serves as a completed wall around the two new cells, known as daughter cells.

Plant cells also have a notable distinction from animal cells. Plant cells take carbon dioxide and turn it into sugar, but animal cells do the opposite, they take sugar and break it back down to carbon dioxide as they make energy. Plants need carbon dioxide to “breathe” and create oxygen as the byproduct. Animals need oxygen to breathe and create carbon dioxide as a result. This is evidence of the relationship and interdependence within the Earth`s ecosystem between flora and fauna.

What distinguishes eukaryotic cells from other cell types include: the nuclear membrane, or nucleus of the cell, the presence of chromosomal proteins and the cytoplasmic organelle cells—the blue collar workers in the cellular world.

A cell operates in the same manner as a city, but on a microscopic level. Like a city, the cell requires different functions to ensure the livelihood of the cell. Parts of the cell need to control traffic, have an overall authority figure and handle waste disposal and other issues. Organelles provide these services within the cell.

Cell Nucleus and Ribosomes

The nucleus is often compared to the leader of a city or a town. Inside the nucleus can be found the majority of the cell`s genetic material. With the DNA present here and used as a map or a blueprint, the nucleus manages protein production within the cell, among other things.

The cell`s ribosomes perform the actual labor by conducting the protein synthesis on behalf of the nucleus. Ribosomes combine together the DNA copies, known as RNA and amino acids. This assembles the proteins together, which are critical to the cell`s proper function.

Membranes, Cell Walls and Cell Structure

Animal cells contain cell membranes, which makes them more pliable, while plant cells contain cell walls. Both of these features provide similar functions within cells by surrounding the cell and regulating what comes in or goes out of the cell. This process helps to maintain the cell`s internal balance. These borders also protect the innermost part of the cell from other forces outside the cell. Cell walls in plants are much stronger than cell membranes in animals. Animal cells need the pliability to move and adapt to their particular assignment.

An endoplasmic reticulum made up of rough endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and smooth ER provide a `highway` of sorts inside cells. Along side this internal highway, various parts of the cell set up business and use the cell`s ER to send the goods they produce to other parts of the cell. Rough ER contains ribosomes along its cell membrane that form the proteins needed. Smooth ER don`t have ribosomes and handle different metabolic processes within the cell, such as detoxification.

The cell`s internal framework, called the cytoskeleton, acts in the same manner as steel girders do when used as the internal frame for building a large city building. This structure helps the cell during cell division or mitosis and during movement.

Cells also contain cytoplasm, which cushions, encases and protects the organelles inside. It exists where the organelles do not—in any space available around the organelles. A golgi apparatus in the cell provides the means to move the proteins and elements created within the cell to other parts of the cell.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both provide needed energy within the cell. Mitochondria help the cell to breathe or complete respiration, while the chloroplasts in plant cells help to turn the sun`s energy into energy and food within the plant. For more information on the differences between plant and animal cells—review any of the following links.

Author: Lily Calyx

Flower expert, gardening enthusiast and creative mind behind our blog.

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