What are Some Differences Between Plant and Animal Cells?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Animal and plant cells have some key similarities and noted differences. Understanding basic cell structure helps to understand how the cells differ from each other, and they do differ in important ways, as plant cells provide different functions for the plant than animal cells provide for the body.

Plant cells have cell walls.
Plant cells have cell walls.

Both types of cells have some similar structural elements. First, they are both eukaryotic, which means they have a defined nucleus. The nucleus contains chromosomes. It is protected and surrounded by the cytoplasm, which is a watery or gel-like liquid. Further, both types of cells have a cell membrane that surrounds the cell. This allows for the cell to exert control, in most cases, over what can penetrate the cell, and what cannot.

Animal cells usually have multiple, small vacuoles.
Animal cells usually have multiple, small vacuoles.

One of the primary differences between animal and plant cells is that these have a cell wall made up of cellulose. This helps the cell to allow high pressure to build inside of it, without bursting. A plant cell has to be able to accept large amounts of liquid through osmosis, without being destroyed. An animal cell does not have this cell wall. If you start to fill the animal cell with too much distilled water or other fluid, it will eventually pop.

Under a microscope, a plant cells have a more regular shape then animal cells.
Under a microscope, a plant cells have a more regular shape then animal cells.

Plant cells also are different because they use photosynthesis to covert sunlight into needed food for the plant. They have chloroplasts, which have their own DNA, essentially directing the work of the chloroplasts.

Also plant cells, when viewed under a microscope, appear very different from animal cells because of the presence of a large vacuole, which exists in the cell’s cytoplasm. It usually takes up most of the room in the cell, and the membrane of the cell encircles it. It contains waste materials, water, and nutrients that can be used or secreted as necessary.

Animal cells, on the other hand, have small vacuoles and may have several. They never have the large single vacuole that takes up most of the space in plant cells. Plant cells often have a more regular shape when viewed under a microscope, while animal cells tend to vary greatly in appearance.

The differences between these cells is more complex, but the primary differences exist in the above-mentioned ways. To sum it up, both types of cells have a nucleus, a cytoplasm, and a cell membrane. A cell from a plant has a large cell vacuole, chloroplasts, a cell wall and a regular shape. Small vacuoles, no cell wall, varied shapes, and the absence of chloroplasts characterize the animal versions.

Plant cells are larger than animals cells are are surrounded by a rigid cell wall.
Plant cells are larger than animals cells are are surrounded by a rigid cell wall.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon131244

i am still want to know is there more than six differences for the animal and plant cells.

anon119928

what things does the animal cell have that the plant cell does not have?

anon116461

Thanks for the help, but are these the only differences between both cells?

anon116270

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anon115832

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anon115458

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anon113503

the plant cell is larger than the animal cell.

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anon89210

i guess an animal cell is bigger than a plant cell.

anon85031

plant and animal cell size can be the same but also plant cells can be bigger and animal cells can be bigger. it varies with the size of the animal or plant.

anon85030

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And do plant and/or animal cells die and if so how?

anon82922

what does an animal cell have that the plant cells don't?

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what structures in animal cells and plant cells causes them to have two different shapes, such as a round shape and rectangular shape?

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Murtaza S. karachi, pakistan.

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Animal: yes or no--Plant: yes or no. Cell membrane: Cell wall: Chloroplast: Chromatin: Cytoplasm: Endoplasmic reticulum: Gogli Bodies: Lysosomes: Mitochondrion: Nuclues: Nuclear membrane: Nucleolus: Ribosome: Vacuole:

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anon36207

Explain the reasons for their similiarities and differences

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what is the difference between plant and animal mitochondrion?

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anon22250

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Brad14

Both animal and plant cells have some similar structural elements. First off they are both eukaryotic, which means they have a defined nucleus. The nucleus contains chromosomes. It is protected and surrounded by the cytoplasm, which is a watery or gel-like liquid. Further, animal and plant cells have a cell membrane that surrounds the cell. This allows for the cell to exert control, in most cases, over what can penetrate the cell, and what cannot.

Brad14

Is the plant cell bigger than the animal cell? Or is the animal cell bigger than the plant cell? of Course the animal cell is bigger you should read more often dude because they kind of Answered in the essay info.

Brad14

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anon20830

what about ribosomes? do both plant and animal cells have ribosomes?

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anon20383

Both plant and animal cells have cell membranes. Plant cells have a cell wall and a cell membrane, animal cells do not have a cell wall.

anon19803

there are only 3 differences : huge vaucole in plant compare to tiny vacuoles in animal cell and plants cell has cholorplast, cell wall which animal cell don't have!

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anon18372

another difference could be that of mitotic divisions. animal cells divide by forming a cleavage furrow, and plant cells divide after a cell plate is formed, which enables the cells to form 2 daughter cell walls

anon18075

Are there anymore differences between the two cells?

I need 8 and so far I only have 5.

anon12021

What are the parts that animal cells have, yet plant cells don't, and vise-versa???

anon11788

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anon9519

So are plant cells bigger or animal cells?

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anon6209

The cells DO vary in size - because the plant cells have one large vacuole, which is filled with liquid, it is larger than the animal cells. Animal cells have many small vacuoles which are scattered throughout the cell. I believe that about 90% of the plant cell is consumed by the vacuole.

anon6184

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anon5137

Is the plant cell bigger than the animal cell? Or is the animal cell bigger than the plant cell?

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