Cells are the basic unit of life all living things have cells. It is the cell that carries out all essential life processes. Being living things, animals and plants share common cellular structures. Plants and animals have a lot of similarities and differences in common.

They both made up of millions of cells which are eukaryotic in nature. Being eukaryotic means they have a true nucleus enclosed and separated by a nuclear membrane from other organelles. The reproduction process is similar too.

While they have a lot in common, it is of utmost importance to know their differences. In this article, we are going to tackle the similarities and differences between animal cells and plant cells up to the very minute details.

difference between plant cell and animal cell - plant vs animal cell

Refer to the table below:

Similarities:

Plant and animal cells share common features – the primary feature is they are both eukaryotic cells, which means that they have true nucleus surrounded by a membrane.

Other similarities include the following:

  • They both have plasma membrane/cell membrane, which is responsible for regulating the movement of substances between the cell and its surroundings.
  • They both have nucleus and cytoplasm where DNA, genetic material is encircled by nuclear membrane.
  • Both plant and animal cells have these structures: mitochondria, Golgi apparatus, nucleus, and endoplasmic reticulum.
  • They both have a double-stranded DNA along with histone proteins synthesized by ribosome in the cytoplasm.
  • They both build tissues, which are essential for sustaining life.
  • They both have vacuoles, although differ mainly in size, but serves the same functions. (1, 3, 5, and 6)

Differences:

Key Points Animal Cells Plant Cells
Difference by definition The primary unit of life for animals containing organelles to form numerous functions and support metabolism. (1, 2) The primary unit of life for plants made up of organelles performing different types of functions to support metabolism.

  • The fundamental and functional unit of Kingdom Plantae.
  • It has a true nucleus and numerous organelles. (1)
Size They are smaller than that of plant cells. Their size is typically between 10 um and 30 um. (2) They are larger than animal cells – size ranging between 10 um and 100 um.
Shape The shape greatly varies – usually round to irregular. The shape is dependent on their function. The typical shape is rectangular to a cube.
Cell wall Animal cells do not have a cell wall. However, they have a plasma membrane, which is responsible for performing various functions. It is also the plasma membrane that protects the cells from damage caused by external forces. It plays a huge role in selective permeability enabling the nutrient molecules, water, and other elements to flow in and out of the cell (3, 4, and 5) Plant cells have a cell wall made of cellulose and membrane. It is a rigid matrix present on the plant cell’s surface. The main role is to protect the cell and its content. (3)
Plasma membrane Animal cells have a plasma membrane that functions as the cell’s protective covering. It has selective permeability. (4, 5, and 6) The plasma membrane contains cellulose enabling selective permeability – selecting the organisms that flow in and out of the cytoplasm. (4, 5)
Cytoplasm It contains the organelles of animal cells. It contains most of the organelles of plant cells.
Ribosomes Animal cells have ribosomes used for protein synthesis, genetic coding, and sequencing of amino acid. (5, 6) Plant cells have ribosomes used for the synthesis of protein and cellular repair. (6)
ER (Endoplasmic Reticulum) Animal cells have two types of endoplasmic reticulum – rough and smooth. (6, 7) Plant cells have two ER namely the rough and smooth ER. (7)
Lysosomes Animals have lysosomes containing digestive enzymes responsible for breaking down macromolecules of cells. (7, 8) They rarely have lysosomes as the breakdown of macromolecules are being taken care of by vacuole and Golgi bodies. (7)
Vacuoles The size of vacuoles is smaller than that of the plant cells, but are plenty in number. (8) The size of the vacuole is too big that it can occupy up to 90% of the cell’s total volume. (5, 8)
Nucleus Animal cells have a nucleus located in the center of the cell. (8, 9) Plant cells do have a nucleus but located on the left side of the cell. (9)
Nucleolus Present Present
Centrioles Animal cells have centrioles and their main role is to aid in the process of cell division. (2, 6) Plant cells do not have centrioles.
Peroxisomes You can find them in animal cell’s cytoplasm and they are primarily involved in the oxidation of some types of biomolecules. They also have a major role in plasmalogen lipid synthesis. (9, 10) Plant cells have cytoplasm and functions as an oxidizer for cellular molecules. They are also involved in lipid synthesis and recycling carbon during the process of photorespiration. (9)
Microfilaments and microtubules Animal cells have both microfilaments and microtubules. Their main roles are to support the cell’s cytoskeleton, transport materials in and out of the nucleus. Both also played an important role in cytokinesis. (7, 8, and 9) Both are present in plant cells. Their function is to support cytoskeletal functions, transport molecules across the cytoplasm and in and out of the nucleus. They also have major cytokinesis functions. (9, 10)
Cytoskeletons The main role of cytoskeletons in an animal cell is to create a network that organizes the components of the cell. It also helps the cell maintain its shape. (4, 5, and 6) The cytoskeleton is the main reason why plant cell holds its shape. Apart from this, the cytoskeleton also supports the cytoplasm and helps maintain the structural organization of plant cells. (7, 8, and 9)
Cytosol It is where the animal cell organelles are suspended. In plant cells, the cytosol is the part where most of the organelles are suspended. (9, 10)
Microvilli They are found in the intestinal lining and the purpose is to increase the surface area to easily absorb foods. (5, 6) Plant cells do not have microvilli.
Granules Animal cells have granules. You can find granules in plant cells.
Cilia and Filaments Animal cells do have both cilia and filaments. Their role is to enable part or whole cell movement such as the swimming of the sperm going to the ova. (3, 5, and 8) Cilia and filaments are not present in plant cells. (3)
Plastids Animal cells do not have plastids. Plant cells have plastids. It is the reason why the plant is pigmented. Plastids also help trap light energy which will be used by the plants in photosynthesis. (6, 9, and 10)
Plasmodesmata Animal cells do not have plasmodesmata. Plant cells have plasmodesmata and the role is to facilitate communication and transport of materials across the cells. (4, 6)
Golgi bodies In animal cells, Golgi bodies are large but few in number. Their function is to process and package proteins and lipid macromolecules during the synthesis process. (2, 6, and 9) In plant cells, Golgi bodies are abundant but small in size. Their primary role is to process, modify, sort, and pack proteins to be used for cellular secretion. (5, 6)
Cellular nutrient synthesis Animal cells cannot synthesize vitamins, amino acids, and coenzymes. Plant cells can synthesize vitamins, amino acids, and coenzymes.
Cytokinesis Cytokinesis happens place through constriction. Cytokinesis in plant cells happens place on the cellular plate.
Osmosis in a hypotonic solution Animal cells take in water molecules through the process of osmosis. When placed in a hypotonic solution, it will easily burst as it does not have a cell wall. Plant cells absorb water molecules through osmosis. The only difference with the animal cell is that plant cell does not burst in hypotonic solution because of its cell wall.
Energy storage They store energy in complex carbohydrate glycogen form. Plant cells store energy in the form of starch.
Proteins Animal cells can only produce 10 out of the 20 amino acids needed to produce proteins.  It is through the diet that other essential amino acids can be produced. (5, 7) Plant cells have the ability to synthesize all 20 amino acids needed for protein production.
Differentiation capability Only stem cells have the ability to convert to other cell types. The majority of plant cells have the ability of differentiation.
Nature of growth They increase in size by increasing numbers. They increase in size by becoming larger and it is made possible by absorbing water into the central vacuole.
Glyoxysomes Animal cells do not have glyoxysomes. Plant cells have this structure, which helps degrade lipids. It is usually found in germinating seeds to aid in the production of sugar. (9, 10)
Chloroplasts The chloroplast is absent in animal cells. Energy is sourced from foods through cellular respiration. It takes place in mitochondria, which is somewhat similar to that of chloroplast in plants. In plant cells, the chloroplast is used in the process of photosynthesis.
Enclosure Animal cells have a flexible thin plasma membrane. Plant cells are enclosed by a rigid cell wall with a plasma membrane.
Desmosomes Animal cells have desmosomes. Plant cells do not have desmosomes.
Mitochondria Animal cells have a large number of mitochondria. Plant cells have mitochondria but fewer in number.
Sub-category Heterotrophs (need organic matter to survive) Autotrophs (can manufacture own food with the help of sunlight)
Specialized functions/types
  • Skin cells – found in the dermal epidermal layer. It protects the internal parts of animals, prevent water loss, and responsible for transmission and perception of sensation.
  • Bone cells – Made up the bones and skeleton of animals. It provides structural support for body movement.
  • Muscle cells – The primary role is for body movement. It also protects the delicate organs in the body.
  • Blood cells – They are the body’s transporter. They carry hormone and nutrients, specifically, oxygen to various body parts.
  • Nerve cells – Their primary role is to send impulses or information, thus helping the body to connect and perform numerous functions accordingly. (3, 4, 5, and 6)
  • Collenchyma cells – elongated and thick cell walls that change and grow as the plant grows.
  • Parenchyma cells – found in the leaves and perform photosynthesis and cellular respiration. They store substances like proteins and starch and play a major role in cellular repair.
  • Sclerenchyma cells – They are rigid and the primary supporting cells of plant that has ceased growing.
  • Xylem cells – Responsible for transporting water and nutrients from the roots going to the stem and leaves.
  • Phloem cells – During photosynthesis, it is the phloem cell that transports nutrients to different parts of the plants. (3, 4, and 5)

Based on the table above, it shows that both animal and plant cells have similar structure given the fact that they are eukaryotic cells.

  • They have membrane-bound organelles like the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria, lysosomes, Golgi apparatus, and peroxisomes. They also have the same membranes, cytoskeletal elements, and cytosol.
  • These organelles share the same functions for both plants and animals. The differences highlighted above only show that although they have a lot in common, they function differently.
  • Looking at the cell anatomy, you can easily say that animal cells don’t have as many features as the plant cells. Hence, animals need to hunt or scavenge for food. They also need to engage in a sexual act to reproduce.
  • The similarities between plant and animal cells are mostly based on the number of organelles they share such as the ribosomes, cytoplasm, Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum.
  • A special organelle that can only be found in the plant is the chloroplast, which contains chlorophyll used by plants during the process of photosynthesis.

Hence, plants are referred to as autotrophs because they can make their own food with the use of sunlight.

On the other hand, animals are called heterotrophs because they need to depend on organic matter to survive. (4, 6, 9, and 10)

References:

  1. https://sciencing.com/animal-vs-plant-cells-similarities-differences-with-chart-13717295.html
  2. https://intl.siyavula.com/read/science/grade-9/cells-as-the-basic-units-of-life/01-cells-as-the-basic-units-of-life?id=toc-id-5
  3. https://www.vedantu.com/biology/difference-between-plant-cell-and-animal-cell
  4. https://www.expii.com/t/animal-vs-plant-cell-differences-similarities-10112
  5. https://microbenotes.com/plant-cell-vs-animal-cell/
  6. https://www.thoughtco.com/animal-cells-vs-plant-cells-373375
  7. https://www.diffen.com/difference/Animal_Cell_vs_Plant_Cell
  8. https://www.sparknotes.com/biology/cellstructure/celldifferences/section1/
  9. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/topics/znyycdm/articles/zmrtng8
  10. https://byjus.com/biology/difference-between-plant-cell-and-animal-cell/

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