The key difference between plant and animal cells is that the plant cells have a cell wall composed of cellulose at the outside to the cell membrane while the animal cells lack a cell wall outer to the cell membrane.
A cell is the fundamental unit of the living organisms. Some organisms are unicellular while some are multicellular. Furthermore, the cell organization differs among the prokaryotic organisms and eukaryotic organisms. Prokaryotes do not have membrane-bound cell organelles as well as they do not have a nucleus. On the other hand, eukaryotes have a complex cell organization with internal compartments and a nucleus. Among the eukaryotes, plants and animals are higher organisms. Though they are eukaryotes and bear structurally similar eukaryotic cells, there exists some difference between plant and animal cells. Mainly, this is due to the additional structures present in the plant and animal cells and the different needs each type of the cell has. As an example, plant cells have chloroplasts to carry out photosynthesis. But, animal cells do not require carrying out photosynthesis since they are heterotrophs. Hence, they do not contain chloroplasts.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What are Plant Cells
3. What are Animal Cells
4. Similarities Between Plant and Animal Cells
5. Side by Side Comparison – Plant vs Animal Cells in Tabular Form
What are Plant Cells?
Plant cells are eukaryotic cells present in plants. They are rectangular in shape. This is due to the presence of a rigid cell wall covering the plant cells. Therefore, plant cells have a definite and unique shape compared to the animal cells. Plant cell wall is a fully permeable layer composed of cellulose. However, inner to that, there is a plasma membrane, which is selectively permeable and it regulates the substances going in and out of the cell.
When observing under the light microscope, plant cells appear in green. This is mainly due to the presence of chloroplasts. Since plants are photoautotrophic organisms, they carry out photosynthesis. In order to produce foods, they need these special organelles called chloroplasts that contain light-capturing pigments. Furthermore, plant cells have a large vacuole that occupies a big area of the cell.
What are Animal Cells?
Cells that are present in animals are animal cells. They are eukaryotic cells. Unlike the plant cells, animal cells do not have a cell wall. Hence, animal cells do not have a definite shape. Their shape is somewhat round but can be easily changed. Due to the absence of a cell wall, animal cells easily swell and burst when placed in distilled water.
Furthermore, animal cells do not contain chloroplasts. Animals are heterotrophs, and they obtain foods from other sources without producing on their own. Moreover, animal cells have many small vacuoles compared to the plant cells. In some animal cells, vacuoles are totally absent.
What are the Similarities Between Plant and Animal Cells?
- Both plant and animal cells are eukaryotic cells.
- Also, both contain a nucleus and other membrane-bound organelles.
- Furthermore, they both carry out aerobic respiration.
- Moreover, both types of cells have vacuoles.
What is the Difference Between Plant and Animal Cells?
Plant and animal cells are eukaryotic cells that have a similar overall structure. However, these two types of cells differ slightly with each other. The key difference between plant and animal cells is that the plant cells have a cell wall while the animal cells do not have a cell wall. Another difference between plant and animal cells is the shape. Animal cells do not have a definite shape while the plant cells have a definite rectangular shape. Furthermore, when considering the vacuoles, there exists a difference between plant and animal cells. That is; the plant cells have a single large vacuole while the animal cells have many small vacuoles.
Summary – Plant vs Animal Cells
Plant and animal cells are eukaryotic cells that are present in plants and animals respectively. Several additional structures that are present in the plant cells make plant cells different from the animal cells. Cell wall, chloroplasts and larger vacuole are the additional structures present in the plant cells. They are not present in the animal cells. Hence, this is the summary of the difference between plant and animal cells.
1.Molecular Expressions Cell Biology: Animal Cell Structure. Available here
2.Editors. “Plant Cell – Definition, Functions and Structure.” Biology Dictionary, Biology
Dictionary, 29 Apr. 2017. Available here