What are the differences between animal and plant cells?

  • All living things are made up of cells. Cells are the basic unit of a living organism and where all life processes are carried out.

  • Animal cells and plant cells share the common components of a nucleus, cytoplasm, mitochondria and a cell membrane.

  • Plant cells have three extra components, a vacuole, chloroplast and a cell wall.

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

Animal cells

Animals are made up of millions of cells. Animal cells have an irregular structure and are made up of four key parts:

  • Nucleus – This contains genetic material (DNA), and controls the cell's activity.
  • Cell membrane – A flexible layer that surrounds the cell and controls the substances that enter and exit.
  • Cytoplasm – A jelly-like substance where the chemical reactions happen.
  • Mitochondria – This is where energy is released from the food molecules.

Plant cells

Plants are also made up of millions of cells. Plant cells have a nucleus, cell membrane, cytoplasm and mitochondria too, but they also contain the following structures:

  • Cell wall – A hard layer outside the cell membrane, containing cellulose to provide strength to the plant.
  • Vacuole – A space inside the cell that is used to store substances and help the cell keep its shape.
  • Chloroplasts – Structures that contain the green pigment chlorophyll, which are a key part of photosynthesis.

Activity - plant and animal cells

Plant and animal cells quiz

Test your knowledge on the difference between plant and animal cells with this quick quiz.

Where next?

Discover more about this topic from around Bitesize.

What are cells?
How to make a model plant cell
What is DNA?