Plant vs. Animal Cells

Brianna Cowling, Leigh Carman
  • Author
    Brianna Cowling

    Brianna graduated from Henderson State University in 2016 with a B.S. in Psychology and Biology. She has been a secondary science teacher for 5 years and has written curriculum and science lessons for other companies. She is a Certified Google Level 1 Educator and is part of the Edulastic Innovator Team and her campus Leadership Team.

  • Instructor
    Leigh Carman

    Leigh Ann holds a master's degree in science and has taught middle and high school science for over ten years.

Define cell and their types as plant and animal cells. Depict how they are common and different from each other. Learn how bacterial cell relates to plant cell. Updated: 07/21/2021

Table of Contents


What is a Cell?

All living things are made up of tiny building blocks known as cells. There are many different types of cells, but each of them has a responsibility in keeping the internal mechanisms of a living organism functioning smoothly. Within a cell, there are specialized organelles, each with its own unique function. Some organelles are only present in animal cells while others are only present in plant cells, but several organelles are common in both.

  • Cytoplasm - jelly-like fluid that fills the cell and holds organelles in place
  • Cytoskeleton - provides structure for the cell
  • Cell Membrane - directs the movement of materials into and out of a cell
  • Nucleus - controls the activities of a cell
  • Smooth Endoplasmic Reticulum - creates fats and lipids for transport out of the cell
  • Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum - creates proteins for transport out of the cell
  • Golgi Apparatus (Golgi Bodies) - package proteins for transport
  • Mitochondria - break down sugar molecules to create energy
  • Ribosomes - creates proteins
  • Vacuole - storage of water and nutrients

Functions of Cell

There are many various functions that a cell has within an organism.

1. Structure and Support

Cells such as skin cells provide structure for organisms, while plants contain cells that form specialized tissues to keep their structure rigid.

2. Growth and Repair

Cells replicate using a process called mitosis to generate new cells. This repairs injuries and also enables an organism to grow.

3. Transport of Materials

Cells enable the import of nutrients such as water and oxygen and the export of waste.

4. Produce Energy

An organism needs energy to function, so the cell plays a key role in producing ATP energy for the organism. In animals, this occurs via cellular respiration, and in plants, this occurs via photosynthesis.

5. Reproduction

Asexual reproduction takes place when cells replicate themselves, creating identical cells and offspring. Sexual reproduction involves the combining of sex cells to mix genetic information.

Types of Cells

Prokaryotic Cells

Prokaryotic cells are simple in structure and were believed to be the first cells to evolve. The domains of Bacteria and Archaea are the only two to contain prokaryotic cells, although this makes up a large majority of Earth's biomass. Prokaryotic cells do not have a true nucleus or many of the membrane bound organelles found in eukaryotic cells. However, a prokaryotic cell does contain the following:

  • Cell wall
  • Cell membrane
  • DNA
  • Ribosomes
  • Cytoplasm

Prokaryotic cells also have a third outer layer called a capsule. This capsule provides even more protection for a bacterial cell and allows it to stick to other surfaces.

Eukaryotic Cells

Eukaryotic cells are larger and more complex than prokaryotic cells. Plant and animal cells are both eukaryotic and contain several diverse organelles that are not found in prokaryotic cells. These organelles include an endoplasmic reticulum, vacuoles, mitochondria, golgi apparatus, lysosomes, and chloroplasts. Eukaryotic cells contain a membrane bound nucleus in which the DNA of the organism is held, unlike a prokaryotic cell where the DNA is coiled in the middle of the cell itself.

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  • 0:00 Animal Vs. Plants
  • 1:09 Shared Characteristics
  • 1:53 Features Unique to Plant Cells
  • 4:40 Lesson Summary
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Difference between Animal Cell and Plant Cell

Animal cells are found in humans and animals while plant cells are only found in plants. While they are both found in living things, there are many differences between the two cells. One of the primary differences is that plant cells are autotrophs. This means that plant are able to synthesize their own food using the organelles they possess. Animal cells are heterotrophs, meaning they need to take in nutrition from outside sources like other plants or animals. Another key difference is the presence of a cell wall. Plant cells have an additional exterior layer around their cell membrane called a cell wall. This structure provides protection and a rigid rectangular structure for plant cells. Plant and animal cells also differ in that plant cells have chloroplasts. Chloroplasts contain chlorophyll, a pigment that uses energy from the sun to convert water and carbon dioxide into food for the plant.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the differences between plant cell and animal cell?

Plant cells have a cell wall surrounding the cell membrane. Another key difference in plant and animal cells is that plant cells have chloroplasts and one central vacuole. They are rectangular and do not have lysosomes.

What are the 5 differences between plant and animal cells?

1. Plant cells have a cell wall.

2. Plant cells have one large central vacuole instead one several small ones.

3. Plant cells do not have lysosomes.

4. Plant cells are rectangular not round.

5. Plant cells have chloroplasts.

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