Differences between Plant and Animal Cells

The building blocks of life, cells, function differently within plants and animals.  They have some similar components, but a few different ones as well.  Regardless, each cell has the required structural elements necessary to complete its purpose.

First, animal and plant cells have many things in common.  The need to protect fragile organelles inside all cells is very important, so both plant and animal cells have a cell membrane, which serves as a barrier between it and the outside world.  The cell membrane allows the removal of waste from the cell, as well as the intake of water and nutrients.  Inside each cell is the cytoplasm, an open area where the organelles perform various functions.

Both animal and plant cells also have a nucleus, which contain their genetic information (DNA).  The nucleus is the head of the cell, and the DNA contains instructions for how the cell operates.  All cells also contain organelles called ribosomes.  Ribosomes are important because they help synthesize proteins within the cell.

Plant and animal cells also both contain mitochondria, which are the organelles responsible for producing energy for the cell through chemical reactions.  Lysosomes are also found in both kinds of cells.  These organelles aid in the cell’s digestion of nutrients and other molecules.  Another organelle that plant and animal cells have in common is the endoplasmic reticulum, which is a structure that takes information from ribosomes and uses it to manufacture the proteins.

Plant cells are different from animal cells in several regards.  First, they have a large sac called the central vacuole, which can take up to 90% of the cell’s space.  This sac is used to store water and other needed nutrients for the plant cell.  Animal cells can also have vacuoles, but they are much smaller than the ones in plant cells.

Plant cells also have a rigid structure called a cell wall outside of their cell membrane.  Since plants do not have skeletons, they need this sturdy structure to protect the inside of each cell.  The cell wall is made up of cellulose.  Another key feature of plant cells is the ability of photosynthesis.  Plant cells have organelles called chloroplasts, which convert energy from the sun into glucose and other sugars. 

A major organelle that animal cells have but most plant cells do not is the centriole.  The centriole plays a major factor in cell division.  Animal cells are round in shape, while plant cells have a rigid, rectangular structure.  Although somewhat different in structure and function, plant and animal cells are well suited to their individual tasks.