Animal and plant cells

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Key points

  • Cells are the smallest unit of life and the building blocks for all organisms.
  • Each component of a cell has its own function.
  • Animal and plant cells differ and they have similarities.
  • Nucleus, cell membrane, cytoplasm and mitochondria are four cell components that are found in both animal and plant cells.

What are cells?

All life on Earth is made from cells. Without cells, there can be no life.

Almost all cells are so small that you need a to see them. Some organisms, like are made of only one cell. These are . Others, like trees and blue whales, are made from millions or even billions of cells. These are multicellular organisms. These often have different types of cells, each with a different function. These are .

What makes up an animal cell?

Each component in the animal cell has a particular function. Animal cells often have an irregular shape.

The four key components of most animal cells are:

  • Nucleus - this contains the genetic material (DNA) of the organism and controls the cell’s activities.
  • Cytoplasm - the liquid that makes up most of the cell in which chemical reactions happen. This is mainly water.
  • Cell membrane - a flexible outer layer that surrounds the cell and controls which substances can pass into and out from it.
  • Mitochondria - tiny parts of cells floating in the cytoplasm where energy is released from glucose from food. The mitochondria, found in the cell cytoplasm, are where most happens.

Activity - Animal cell structure

What makes up a plant cell?

Plant cells often have a regular shape. They have the same cell components as animal cells: a nucleus, cell membrane, cytoplasm and mitochondria.

They also have these extra three as well:

  • Cell wall: a tough outer layer of the cell, which contains cellulose to provide strength and support to the plant.
  • Vacuole: a space inside the cytoplasm that contains a watery liquid called cell sap. It keeps the cell firm.
  • Chloroplasts: structures found in the cells of green parts of plants only (leaves and stems) which contain a green pigment called chlorophyll in which occurs.

Activity - Plant cell structure

The differences between animal and plant cells


Find out from a greengrocer and a butcher how the structure of a particular cell affects their produce

Can you answer these questions based on the video?

1. What do animal and plant cells feel like?

2. What part of plant cells gives them their crunch?

  1. Animal cells feel squishy or malleable. Plant cells feel firm or rigid.
  1. The cell wall gives plants their crunch.

Test your knowledge

Animal and plant cells quiz