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What are Some Differences Between Plant and Animal Cells? Animal and plant cells have some key similarities and noted differences. Understanding basic cell structure helps to understand how plant cells differ from animal cells. They do differ in important ways, as plant cells provide different functions for the plant, than animal cells provide for the body. Both animal and plant cells have some similar structural elements. First off they are both eukaryotic, which means they have a defined nucleus. The nucleus contains chromosomes. It is protected and surrounded by the cytoplasm, which is a watery or gel-like liquid. Further, animal and plant cells have a cell membrane that surrounds the cell. This allows for the cell to exert control, in most cases, over what can penetrate the cell, and what cannot. One of the primary differences between animal and plant cells is that plant cells have a cell wall made up of cellulose. This helps the plant cells to allow high pressure to build inside of it, without bursting. A plant cell has to be able to accept large amounts of liquid through osmosis, without being destroyed. An animal cell does not have this cell wall. If you start to fill the animal cell with too much distilled water or other fluid, it will eventually pop. Plant cells also are different from animal cells because they use photosynthesis to covert sunlight into needed food for the plant. Plant cells have chloroplasts, which has its own DNA, essentially directing the work of the chloroplasts. Also plant cells, if one could view them under the microscope, appear extremely different than an animal cell because of the presence of a large vacuole, which exists in the cell’s cytoplasm. It usually takes up most of the room in the cell, and the membrane of the cell encircles it. It contains waste materials, water, and nutrients that can be used or secreted as necessary. Animal cells have small vacuoles and may have numerous ones. They never have the large single vacuole that takes up most of the space in plant cells. As well, under the microscope plant cells often have a more regular shape. Animal cells tend to vary greatly in appearance. The differences between plant and animal cells can become more complex, but the primary differences exist in the above-mentioned ways. To sum, animal and plant cells both have a nucleus, a cytoplasm, and a cell membrane. Plant cells also have a large cell vacuole, chloroplasts, a cell wall and a regular shape. Small vacuoles, no cell wall, varied shapes, and the absence of chloroplasts characterize animal cells.
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