Difference Between Plant and Animal Cells – A Complete Overview

Difference Between Plant and Animal Cells

Difference between Plant and Animal Cells: Plants and Animals consist the major kingdoms of Domain Eukarya. On one hand, Kingdom Plantae is composed of multi-cellular (although some are unicellular) autotrophic organisms. At present, it is estimated that the total number of plants is 400,000 while of course a lot still remain undiscovered.

On the other hand, the members of the Kingdom Animalia make up more than three-fourths of all species found in our planet. They typically range from the simplest like the sponges and corals up to the most developed one like humans.

In terms of physical appearance, plants undeniably are distinctly different from animals. But what about inside them? Do they differ too? Well, in this post, we will explore the answer to that question! We will discuss the difference between plant cell and animal cell everything at the cellular organization level. Check out the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells as well.

Table of Contents

What are plant cells?

Like any other eukaryotic cells, plant cells[1] that have their genetic material enclosed in the nucleus and have membrane-bound organelles. One of the most distinct features of plants cells is the presence of cell wall apart from the cell membrane itself.

plant cell organelles
Image Source: Wikimedia

  • This cell wall, primarily composed of cellulose, is what provides the whole plant structure support and rigidity.
  • The main function of plant cells is to carry out photosynthesis because of the presence of chlorophyll in their chloroplasts.
  • It was once believed that plant cells originated from the endosymbiosis between a photosynthetic single celled organism and a larger proto-eukaryote.

Types of plant cells

There are different types of plant cells which are specific in performing certain functions necessary for survival. The following are the types of plant cells:

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    1. Parenchyma

    Among all types of plant cells, parenchyma cells are the simplest in terms of structure – they only have thin walls. These cells are not highly specialized a primarily used for the storage of organic products.

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    2. Collenchyma

    Collenchyma cells have relatively thin walls but with some degrees of thickening at some parts of the cell. This type of structure allows the plant cell to utilize their function as structural support.

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    3. Sclerenchyma

    Unlike parenchyma and collenchyma cells, sclerenchyma cells have highly lignified (embedded with lignin) cell walls which are thickened dead cells at maturity.

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    4. Water Conducting Cells

    Xylem is a plant vascular tissue which helps in transmitting water from roots to all parts of the plant. The cells in this tissue have a hardening agent unlike collenchyma cells. There are 2 types of cells within Xylem namely tracheids and vessel members. Seedless vascular plants contain tracheids whereas flowering plants (Angiosperms) contain both tracheids and vessel members[2].

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    5. Sieve Tube Members

    Phloem is another plant tissue which is responsible to conduct foods produced (via Photosynthesis) in the leaves to all parts of the plant. Within this tissue, 3 types of cells found namely companion cells, phloem fibres, and parenchyma cells.

What are animal cells?

Animal cells are also a type of eukaryotic cells that contain a “true nucleus” and membrane-bound organelles enclosed together by a plasma membrane.

Animal Cell Structure
Diagram of a typical animal cell (Organelles are labelled inside the diagram)

  • Animal cells do not have cell wall, which typically distinguish them from other eukaryotic organisms like plants and fungi.
  • Scientists believed that the characteristic of having cell[3] wall by animals is a feature that was lost in the past by a single-celled organism that eventually gave rise to the Kingdom Animalia.
  • Despite the lack of a rigid cell wall, animal cells have developed a wide array of cell types, tissues, and organs. Animal cells typically evolved to form nerves and muscles which allowed them for locomotion and mobility.
  • While being mobile has greatly allowed animals to do a lot of things, animal cells per se are unable to synthesize their own food, hence are always dependent on plants.

Types of animal cells

There are different types of animals per se, depending on the type of environment they live in and the type of lifestyle they have. Listed below are some of the most common types of animal cells.

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    1. Nerve Cells

    Nerve cells are specialized cells that electro-chemically send impulses or information to and from the sensory receptors and the central nervous system.

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    2. Blood Cells

    Also called as the hematopietic cell, the blood cell is responsible for carrying oxygen to the different tissues while at the same time collecting carbon dioxide from them. Aside from that, blood cells also carry with them hormones and other nutrients and send them to the different parts of the body.

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    3. Muscle Cells

    Muscle cells, also called myocytes, are long and tubular cells (sometimes spindle shaped) that function for the production of force and movement. In animals, muscle cells contain the most number of mitochondria.

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    4. Skin Cells

    Located in the epidermal and dermal layer, skin cells function mainly for protection, perception, and transmission of sensation. In addition to that, skin cells also prevent water loss through dehydration.

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    5. Bone Cells

    Bone cells make up the bones and overall skeleton of animals. While there are different types of bone cells, their main function is to provide structural support and aid in movement.

Difference Between Plant and Animal Cells

As eukaryotic cells, plants and animal cells share many features in common like the presence of organelles like the nucleus, mitochondria, cell membrane and other. However, as both are basic units of entities, each has their own feature that differentiates it from the other. Here are the differences:

Features Plant Cell Animal Cell
Size Usually larger in size (10 to 100 micrometers) Relatively smaller in size (10 to 30 micrometers)
Shape Usually rectangular and more rigid Irregular in shape
Plasticity Shape is permanent Plastic; can change its shape
NucleusWhat is Nucleus?Nucleus is a membrane-enclosed organelle found in Eukaryotic cells. Found on one side Usually found in the center
Cell WallWhat is a Cell Wall?Cell Wall is an envelope surrounding all organelles in a cell and situated outside the cell membrane. Present (made up of cellulose) Absent
VacuoleWhat is a Vacuole?Vacuole is a fluid substance which is present within the cytoplasm of a cell. Contains one large central vacuole Contains numerous small vacuoles embedded in the cytoplasm
ChloroplastWhat is a Chloroplast?Chloroplast is a plastid (found only in Plant Cells) which contains chlorophyll and photosynthesis occurs in it. Present Absent
PlasmodesmataWhat is Plasmodesmata?Plasmodesmata are channels that connect one plant cell to the other. Present Absent
LysosomeWhat is Lysosome?Lysosome is an organelle capable of degrading polymers like carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids. Absent Present
CentrioleWhat is a Centriole?A centriole is a cylindrical cell structure that is mainly consists of a protein named tubulin. They are mostly found in Eukaryotic cells. Centrioles aid in cell division. Absent Present
GlyxoxysomeWhat are Glyxoxysomes?Glyxoxysomes are fat storage during germination and they are very specific to plant cells and also in filamentous fungi. Present Absent
Tight Junctions & DesmosomesWhat are Tight Junctions & Desmosomes?Desmosomes are localized patches that hold two cells tightly together by proteins like a gap junction with no opening between them.
Tight junctions get created when two membranes bond into one which makes a very strong barrier between two cells.
They serve as permeable "seals" in cells.
Absent Present
Food Storage Food is stored in the form of starch Food is stored in the form of glycogen
PhotosynthesisWhat is Photosynthesis?Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy (Starch). Produce own food through photosynthesis. Cannot photosynthesize. Check out the Cellular Respiration here.
CytokinesisWhat is Cytokinesis?Cytokinesis is the physical process of cell division where the cytoplasm of a parental cell divides into two daughter cells. This occurs in Eukaryotic cells. Occurs by cell plate formation method Occurs by furrowing
Spindle Fiber Formation Spindle fibers formed are anastral (no asters in each poles of the cell) Spindle fibers formed are amphiastral (asters present in each poles of the cell)
Tonicity Will not burst when placed in a hypotonic (lower solute concentration) solution Will burst when placed in a hypertonic (higher solute concentration) solution

Cite this article as: "Difference Between Plant and Animal Cells – A Complete Overview," in Bio Explorer, December 30, 2016, http://www.bioexplorer.net/difference-between-plant-and-animal-cells.html/.


  • [1] – “Plant Cell.” Plant Cell | Structure, Parts of Plant Cell | [email protected] Accessed December 29, 2016. Link.
  • [2] – Petruzzello, Melissa. “Xylem.” Encyclop√¶dia Britannica. 2016. Accessed December 29, 2016. Link.
  • [3] – “Molecular Expressions Cell Biology: Animal Cell Structure.” Molecular Expressions Cell Biology: Animal Cell Structure. Accessed December 29, 2016. Link.