We are all of us, each and every lifeform on the planet, made up of thousands upon millions of cells. The cell is the basic structural and physiological unit of all living organisms on the planet. However, while all life is made up of cells, some are not the same as others. The two main types of cells on earth are known as Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic, but what are the differences between the two?
Prokaryotic cells are often thought to be the first life on the planet. They include both bacteria and archaea cellular lifeforms, and are generally much smaller than eukaryotic cells. They are usually single cells, but often consist of chains or small clusters. They’re made up of a Plasma membrane on the surrounding layer of the cell, and often accompanied by a cellular wall made of peptidoglycan. Some prokaryotes also have an outer membrane. They’re often encased in a capsule to help hold their inner material.
Inside of the prokaryote, is where the differences occur between it and the eukaryote. Prokaryotic cells have no real structure to them inside the cell. They have a mass of material called cytoplasm that holds the free-floating material inside. This free-floating material includes the cells Ribosomes, which are the sites of protein synthesis within a cell body and are roughly 25nm in diameter. Rather than a complex structure to house the DNA within the cell, it instead has a free moving material known as the nucleoid.
The Eurkayrotic cell is very structured. Eukayotic cells are the base of all complex organisms on the planet. They’re what makes up the skin on your body, the organs that help you to digest your food, the material that makes up a leaf on a plant, the tongue a frog uses to catch a fly, and so on. The main difference between the Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes aside from their size, is the structure which they’re made. Prokaryotes often lack structure, with all their material floating freely inside the cell, while Eukaryotes have many compartments to hold the complex arrangement it needs to function. These compartments are known as organelles. There are two main types of Eukaryotes, the animal cell and the plant cell.
The animal cell is surrounded by a cytoskeleton wrapped in a plasma membrane. Within the cytoskeleton (learn function of cytoskeleton), it houses many organelles capable of different tasks for the cell. The main center of the cell is known as the nucleus, this area is where ribosomes are made, DNA replication is done, and it’s the genetic control of a cell’s activity. Also within it is ribosomes within the endoplasmic reticulum, centrioles with are involved in nuclear division, mitochondrion which give the cell energy, and the golgi apparatus.
The plant cell is almost always surrounded by a cellular wall followed by a small plasma membrane. The plant cell has a large vacuole that contains water as well as organic and inorganic material. Within the plant cell is also the Chloroplast, which harvests sunlight to produce sugar for energy. Like the animal cell it also has mitochondrion, ribosomes, a nucleus, and a golgi apparatus.
These are some of the basic structures to the basic building block of life. It’s important to note that even though these differences exist, each one of these are not limited to being this way. For instance, some animal cells may be equipped with a vacuole system similar to plants. Always remember in your study of life that life itself is extremely diverse and complex, and just because one system is governed a certain way does not mean they all are.