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What are Some Differences Between Plant and Animal Cells?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon131244 — On Dec 01, 2010

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

By anon119928 — On Oct 19, 2010

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

By anon116461 — On Oct 06, 2010

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

By anon116270 — On Oct 06, 2010

This article helps a lot for gcse; core, double and triple if needed. This article also helps with biology As level but for As level the more complex detail is needed. This partly helped with my biology As level but this was already taught to me. Only if you could produce this in more detail. Thank you a lot anyway. God bless.

By anon115832 — On Oct 04, 2010

this is very good info. the best helps

By anon115458 — On Oct 02, 2010

thank you very much. you helped me. i had no idea that the plant cell was bigger than the animal cell.

By anon113503 — On Sep 24, 2010

the plant cell is larger than the animal cell.

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By anon89707 — On Jun 11, 2010

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By anon89210 — On Jun 09, 2010

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

By anon85031 — On May 18, 2010

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.

By anon85030 — On May 18, 2010

this helped with homework and i could not remember that the animal cell did not have a cell wall. without this i could have forgotten!

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

By anon82922 — On May 08, 2010

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

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this is very helpful but i am kind of confused

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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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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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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Thanx for this article!!!! I still have questions. What organelles do animal cells have and plant cells don't and vice versa?

By Brad14 — On Nov 24, 2008

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.

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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.

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

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By anon20383 — On Oct 29, 2008

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.

By anon19803 — On Oct 20, 2008

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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By anon18372 — On Sep 21, 2008

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

By anon18075 — On Sep 14, 2008

Are there anymore differences between the two cells?

I need 8 and so far I only have 5.

By anon12021 — On Apr 28, 2008

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

By anon11788 — On Apr 22, 2008

soooo which is biger, the plant cell or animal cell...

By anon9746 — On Mar 12, 2008

omg we are doing a venn diagram and you have to tell the differences and similarities and i got A+ that's an improvement for me you helped me soooooooooooooooo much i will go to you next time i need help!!!!!!!!!!! I usually get an A. actually i have all A because of this website i memorized it. it's www.wisegeek.com

By anon9519 — On Mar 08, 2008

So are plant cells bigger or animal cells?

By anon7403 — On Jan 25, 2008

Hey, you guys have helped me sooooooo much, for my science project. the information I need I got it from you and didn't have to go any other sites thank you.

By anon6605 — On Jan 03, 2008

Thank you sooooo much! My science teacher gave me homework over Winter Break, and my first instinct was to go to my science book, but I left it at school! So this site helped sooooo much!

By anon6209 — On Dec 19, 2007

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.

By anon6184 — On Dec 18, 2007

too scientific???? that makes no sense. Unless you presented it in a way that it seemed like you didn't know what you were talking about and you had just copied things you didn't understand.

By anon6175 — On Dec 18, 2007

Man, THANK YOU! You're saving me so much cause i have a huge test on cells tomorrow and i really needed this. Thanks again

By anon6123 — On Dec 17, 2007

grr...thank you for this, but i got a B on my homework because my teacher said it was too "scientific"

By anon5305 — On Nov 20, 2007

i guess they must vary in size. this helped a lot with my homework!

By anon5137 — On Nov 14, 2007

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

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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