Plant Cell vs. Animal Cell

The key difference between plant cell and animal cell is the presence and absence of cell wall and chloroplast. If we look from the outside, plants seem pretty different from animals. For instance, plants simply cannot walk around and catch food as animals do, they release oxygen instead of carbon dioxide in the air and make their own food while on the other hand animals require oxygen made by plants to live and cannot make their own food.

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But, if we closely look at the structure of plant cells and animal cells, they look very similar because they both are prokaryotic cells and they both contain membrane-bound organelles such as the nucleus, mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, peroxisomes, and endoplasmic reticulum.

Last of all, both of these cells follow a similar pattern of reproduction that includes mitosis and meiosis.

However, major differences do exist between plant cell and animal cell which significantly reflect the difference in the functions of each cell. The main differences between the structure and function of these cells are as follows:

Comparison Chart

BasisPlant CellAnimal Cell
SizePlants cells usually range in between 10-100 micrometers in lengthAnimal cells are generally smaller from plant cells and usually range in between 10-30 micrometers in length
ShapeFixed shape and has distinct edges (typically rectangular or cube-shaped)Irregular or round in shape
VacuolesOne large central vacuole that takes up to 90% of the cell’s volumeAnimal cells have many small and numerous vacuoles
Cell wallPlant cells have a cell wall composed of cellulose as well as cell membraneAnimal cells do not have a cell wall but have a cell membrane
Golgi ApparatusPresentPresent
Endoplasmic ReticulumPresentPresent
LysosomesPlant cells rarely contain lysosomesNumerous lysosomes present in the cytoplasm
PeroxisomesPresentPresent
GlyoxisomesPresentAbsent
PlastidsPresentAbsent
CiliaPresent in some cells (e.g. ginkgo, pteridophytes, cycads, and sperm of bryophytes)Most of the animal cells consist of cilia
CentriolesPlant cells do not typically contain centrioles, only present in lower plant formsPresent
Energy storageStore energy in the form of starchAnimal cells store energy in the form of complex carbohydrate (glycogen)
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What is Plant Cell?

The plant cell is the basic unit of life in all the organisms of the Kingdom Plantae. It is a eukaryotic cell that contains a larger central vacuole, and a protective outer covering called the cell wall.

Besides all these, plant cells also contain many specialized structures called organelles that carry out different function

Components of Plant Cell

Just like the different organs in the body, the plant cell has many different structures or components called as organelles. Each organelle has a specialized function such as,

Cell Wall

It is a rigid layer found on the outside of the plant cell which is composed of glycoproteins, pectin, cellulose, lignin, and hemicellulose.

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The primary function of the cell wall is to protect and provide strength and support to the plant cell. The cell wall is mainly made up of cellulose fiber which helps in maintain the shape of the cell and protecting the cell against mechanical stress.

 Cell Membrane

It is also known as plasma membrane that is present within the cell wall. It is a thin layer made up of proteins, lipids, and fat.

It is semi-permeable thus playing an important role in regulating the movement of materials inside and outside the cell. For example, cell membrane is actively playing its role in keeping the toxins outside the cell while nutrients and essential minerals inside the cell.

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Chloroplast

The chloroplast is only found in plant cells. It is oval shaped and composed of two membranes, one is an outer membrane which forms the external surface of the chloroplast, and one is an inner membrane that lies just underneath and between these membranes is a thin inter-membrane space about 10-20 manometers wide. Within the membrane, there is another space called the stroma where chloroplasts are located.

Each chloroplast contains a green-colored pigment called chlorophyll which absorbs light energy from the sun and utilizes it to transform carbon dioxide and water into glucose.

The molecule chlorophyll gives the plant its green color and required for the process of photosynthesis.

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Vacuole

All plant cells have a large central vacuole that occupies around 30-80% of the cell’s volume. It is a small sphere of a plasma membrane that contains ions, fluids, and other molecules.

A central vacuole of a plant cell is a mixture of salts, enzymes, and other substances and is essentially a sac filled with water that helps maintain the shape of the cell.

The central vacuole has many functions, aside from storage the main role is to maintain the turgor pressure, which is the pressure of the contents of the cell pushing against the cell wall keeping the various parts of plants rigid and firm.

Mitochondria

It is also known as “powerhouse” or the “storehouse of energy” of the cell. Mitochondria is a round, tube-like, and double-membrane organelle, with the inner membrane being highly folded found in the cytoplasm of all eukaryotic cells.

They provide energy by breaking down the sugar molecules and carbohydrates into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the process of cellular respiration. It is also responsible for regulating membrane potential and cell metabolism.

Ribosomes

Ribosomes are the smallest membrane-bound organelles or granules of RNA that are scattered in the cytoplasm and also line the membranes of the rough endoplasmic reticulum that converts amino acids into proteins.

It serves as a site of protein synthesis, therefore called as protein factories of the cell.

Golgi Apparatus

It is also known as the Golgi body or Golgi complex located near the nucleus. It looks like a stack of membranes that are involved in the transportation of lipids and modification of proteins.

Types of Plant Cells

As plant ages, its cells become more specialized to carry out certain functions necessary for its survival. Some plant cells are responsible for synthesizing and storing organic products, while others are needed to transport nutrients throughout the plant.

Mostly, there are about 5 types of plant cells each with different function such as:

Parenchyma cells

The highest numbers of cells found in plants are parenchyma cells. These cells are typically more flexible because they have primary thin walls and highly functional cytoplasm.

These cells make up the plant leaves and carry out photosynthesis, cellular respiration, along with other metabolic processes. Parenchyma cells are also responsible for plant wound repair as they store substances like starches and proteins.

Collenchyma cells

They are typically elongated in shape, have thick primary cell walls composed of the carbohydrate polymers cellulose and pectin.

The role of collenchyma cells is to support the young plants that are growing in length. Due to their lack of secondary cell walls and the absence of  lignin in their primary cell walls, collenchyma cells can provide structural support to tissues while maintaining flexibility.

It is called plastic support that can hold a young stem or petiole into the air, but in cells they stretch and elongate.

Sclerenchyma cells

Sclerenchyma cells are the hardest, dead cells that have very thick cell walls. They have a hardening agent in their cell wall making these cells hard and brittle therefore give the plant their support.

Xylem

Xylem cells are also known as water-conducting cells that help in the transportation of water and nutrients throughout a plant, from the roots to the leaves and stem. These cells have a hardening agent in the tissue that makes it rigid and capable of functioning in structural support and function.

Phloem

Phloem is a type of conducting tissue found in vascular plants. The main function of phloem cells is to transport nutrients such as glucose made during photosynthesis to all parts of a plant

Functions of Plant Cell

Plant cells are the building blocks of plants and play an important role in the different functions of the plant.

One of the key functions of a plant cell is photosynthesis that occurs in the chloroplast of the plant cell. Photosynthesis is a process of preparing food by the plants by utilizing sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide as a result of  energy is produced in the form of ATP.

What is Animal Cell?

An animal cell is the fundamental unit of life in all the organisms of the Animal Kingdom. It is a eukaryotic cell that lacks a cell wall but has a true membrane-bound nucleus along with other organelles that are needed for the proper functioning of the cell.

If we look under the microscope, animal cells range in size from a few millimeters to microscopic microns. Due to the absence of cell wall, animal cells are seen in a variety of shapes such as oval, rod-shaped, curved, spherical, concave, and rectangular.

Components of Animal Cell

A typical animal cell comprises the following cell organelles:

Plasma Membrane

Animal cells only have a cell membrane that surrounds the entire cell and is composed of protein, fats, and phospholipids.

It’s semi-permeable in nature and controls the movement of nutrients and other elements into and outside the cell like oxygen and carbon dioxide pass through easily, while larger molecules go through a special membrane. This helps in maintaining the homeostasis within the cell.

Nucleus

It is an organelle that contains several sub-organelles such as nucleosomes, nucleolus, and chromatins.

The nucleus contains DNA and other genetic materials that regulate the growth and division of the cell during mitosis.

Cytoplasm

A jelly-like material which contains all the cell organelles and that is found outside the nucleus of the cell.

The cytosol is the liquid found in the cytoplasm which is mostly made of water but also contains ions like proteins, potassium, and other small molecules.

Cilia

It is a group of micro-tubules which are found to be protruding from some cells. The primary function of cilia is to help in locomotion of the cell from one place to another.

Cytoskeleton

It is a network of filaments and tubules that are found all over the cytoplasm of the cell. It has many functions that include giving the cell shape, providing strength, stabilizing tissues and also has a role in cell signaling.

Endosomes

They are membrane-bound vesicles that are suspended in the cytoplasm of all the animal cells.

Lysosomes

They are also called as cell vesicles surrounded by a membrane comprising of digestive enzymes whose function is to digest the cell wastes and help in digestion, excretion, and in the cell renewal process.

Peroxisomes

Peroxisomes are the most common type of micro-bodies that looks like a spherical body with a single membrane and are found in the cytoplasm

Golgi complex

A flat, smooth layered, sac-like organelle made up of cisternae and is located near the nucleus involved in manufacturing, storing, packing, and transporting the particles throughout the cell.

Types of Animal Cells

There are numerous types of animal cells and each has its specific function. The most common types of animal cells are:

Skin cells

There are two common types of skin cells:

  • Keratinocytes makeup around 90% of all skin cells and made a protein called “keratin”. The function of keratin is to make skin and nails as an effective layer of protection for the body.
  • Melanocytes are the second main type of cell which is involved in the production of “melanin: which gives skin its color.
Muscle cells

Muscle cells or muscle fibers are long tubular cells responsible for the movement of limbs or organs. There are three common types of muscle cells:

  • Skeletal muscle cells are the most common type of muscle cells and are responsible for general and conscious movements of the body.
  • Cardiac muscle cells are responsible for controlling the contractions of the heart by generating electrical impulses.
  • Smooth muscles control the subconscious movements of tissues such as the movement of uterus, blood vessels, and stomach.
Blood Cells

Blood cells are of two types:

  • Red blood cells (RBCs) are the animal cells that do not have a nucleus and that makeup around 99.9% of all blood cells and are responsible for the transportation of oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body.
  • White blood cells (WBCs) are known as the police of the body and serves as a vital part of animal’s immune system and help to battle infecting by the killing of damaging and harmful bacteria.
Nerve cells

They are also called as neurons and are the main cells of the nervous system. They serve as the message carriers of animal cells and receive and deliver signals using dendrites and axons that receive and transport signals to and from the cell.

Fat cells

Fat cells are commonly known as lipocytes or adipocytes used to store fats and other lipids as energy reserves.

There are two main types of fat cells in animals differing on the way they store lipids:

  • White fat cells that have one bigger fat drop.
  • Brown fat cells store smaller and multiple lipid droplets that are scattered throughout the cell.

Functions of Animal cell

An animal cell carries out all the processes of the body such as production of proteins which is involved in the metabolism and transportation of other molecules.

Depending on the organ, the function of animal cells varies. For instance, the heart has cardiac muscles that helps in beating while the digestive tract have cilia, which are finger-like projections that increase surface area for the absorption of nutrients during digestion.

Key Differences between Plant Cell and Animal Cell

Below are the important points which will help you in differentiating the plant cells and animal cells:

  1. Animal cells and plant cells both are eukaryotic and multicellular but plant cells possess certain other organelles such cell wall, vacuole, and chloroplast that are found to be absent in an animal cells.
  2. Plant cells are usually larger and have fixed or rectangular shape, while animal cells are smaller in size and irregular in shape such as rod-shaped, oval, or spherical.
  3. Cell wall, as well as the plasma membrane is present in plant cell, while animal cells lack a cell wall but plasma membrane is present.
  4. The nucleus is present on both cells, but in plant cell it is on one side of the cell while on animal cell it is present in the center.
  5. Animal cells have some organelles such as Lysosomes for digestion, centrosomes which helps in cell division, and flagella to help in locomotion but none of these organelles are present in plant cell.
  6. Plastids, glyoxysomes, and chloroplast are found in plant cells but absent in animal cells.
  7. One huge vacuole is present in plant cells while on the other hand, numerous and small vacuoles are present in animal cells.
  8. Food material is reserved as starch in plant cells and as glycogen in an animal cell.
  9. Plant cells are able to synthesize nutrients like vitamins, amino acids, and co-enzymes while animal cells are unable to do so.
  10. Plant cells are autotrophs and have the ability to make their own food, while animals are heterotrophs.
  11. Plant cells release oxygen during photosynthesis while animal cells releases carbon dioxide.

Video Comparing Plant and Animal Cells

Conclusion

Plant cells and animal cells both are eukaryotic cells that contain a nucleus and other organelles to perform necessary functions but the clear difference between them is the lack of cell wall, vacuoles, and chloroplast in the animal cell and the absence of flagella, Lysosomes, and centrosomes in plant cells.

The reason for the difference can be the mode of nutrition as plants are autotrophs and make their own food, while animals are the heterotrophs and are unable to make their own food.

One last reason can be evolution which took place and thus the cells developed according to their needs 

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