How does a plant cell differ from an animal cell?

The main difference is that plant cells have a cell wall as well as a cell membrane. Animal cells only have a cell membrane.

  1. Plant cells have cell walls, which supports a rigid (rectangular) structure. These structures are composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and a variety of other materials. An animal cell does not have this cell wall; as such, the shape is more dynamic. With animal cells there is a diversity of shapes although most are roughly circular to maximize surface area.
  2. Plant cells have chlorophyll, the light-absorbing pigment required for photosynthesis. This pigment, which makes plants appear green, is contained in structures called chloroplasts (or more generally, plastids).
  3. Similarly, chlorophyll containing plant cells go through both photosynthesis and cellular respiration, while animal cells only go through cellular respiration.
  4. Plants cells have a large, central vacuole. While animal cells may have one or more small vacuoles, they do not take up the volume that the central vacuole does (up to 90% of the entire cell volume!). The vacuole stores water and ions, and may be used for storage of toxins.
  5. Animal cells have centrioles, cilia (unicelluar animal cell), and lysosomes. Plant cells have no need for centrioles because their spindle fibers connect to the cell wall.
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