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.
- 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.
- 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).
- Similarly, chlorophyll containing plant cells go through both photosynthesis and cellular respiration, while animal cells only go through cellular respiration.
- 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.
- 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.