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What are the differences between plant and animal cells?

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4 Answers

The main structural differences between plant and animal cells are the additional structures found in plant cells. These structures include: chloroplasts, the cell wall, and vacuoles.

 

Chloroplasts

In animal cells, the mitochondria produces the majority of the cells energy from food. Plant cells use sunlight as their energy source; the sunlight must be converted into energy in a process called photosynthesis. Chloroplasts are perform this function.  The energy conversion in plants is a complex set of reactions similar to those performed by mitochondria in animals.

 

The Cell Wall

Another structural difference between in plant cells is the presence of a rigid cell wall surrounding the cell membrane. The tough wall gives added stability and protection to the plant cell.  If you think about it, most animal cells are inside an organism that has either an exoskeleton or an endoskeleton,  built in structure.  Plants don't have a skeleton of any kind so the cells have to perform this. 

Vacuoles

Vacuoles are large, liquid-filled organelles found only in plant cells. Vacuoles can occupy up to 90% of a cell's volume and have a single membrane. Their main function is as a space-filler in the cell, but they can also fill digestive functions and their interiors can be used as storage for nutrients.  

 

When looking at two cells the easiest way to determine which is an animal cell and which is a plant is by looking at the out layer of the cell.  In a plant cell the outer layer is a cell wall which is rigid and gives the plant its support and structure.  Where as in an animal cell this layer is a plasma membrane.  Another major difference between the two cell types is seen within the cell for only plant cells have chloroplasts and vacules.  The cholorplasts are the organelles responsible for photosynthesis. 

Like what Vicki stated it is a good idea to draw each of the two cell types with their oraganelles and label them all.  I also recommend creating an analogy to remember the task of each organelle.   An example is making the cell a city and the organelles different locations in the city relating to their function.

Hi George,

There are a couple of ways you can learn the differences between plant and animal cells.  You can set up a comparison grid and list which of the exterior structures (eg. cell wall, cell membrane, flagella/cilia) and interior structures are applicable to each type of cell.  For instance, there is no cell wall in animal cells because they have an extracellular matrix instead.  Animal cells secrete a mix of glycoproteins (similar to the fibrous collagen protein found in our tendons and ligaments) which surrounds the animal cell forming a protective surface.  A complex mixture of molecules forms a web which is attached to the cytoskeleton of the animal cell.  Unlike the plant cell, this matrix is not a "cell wall" which is quite strong and thick in plants.  This is one of the primary differences in the two types of cells.  Plant cells have a cell wall and animal cells do not have cell walls.  Animal cells have an "extracellular matrix" or "ECM" (Raven, 82).

The other method you can use to learn the differences in the two types of cells is to sketch each cell and label all structures, interior and exterior.  I'll leave it to you to look up the list of structures for each cell type, otherwise, I'd be giving you the answers which is considered academic dishonesty.  The quickest and easiest way to find them is to check your textbook or just Google each cell type!  Hope this is helpful to you.  Happy Holidays!

Reference: Eighth edition, Biology (2008), Raven, Johnson, Losos, Mason & Singer 

 

 

 

Just Google the question!!  The first item on the list gives a table of comparison followed by diagrams, then details of the items in the table.