The Differences between Animal Cells and Plant Cells

Cells are the functional and structural units of all living organisms, being found in both plants and animals. However, animal cells are somewhat different from plant cells. While they essentially share the same functions and components, animal cells and plant cells have certain specific characteristics that set them apart. Here are the most important differences between animal cells and plant cells.

Animal Cells


  • do not have a cell wall; they only have the cell membrane;
  • do not have chloroplasts;
  • have dynamic shapes, being either circular or irregular; this is a consequence of them not having a cell wall;
  • do not have plasmodesmata;
  • have centrioles; plants do not need to have centrioles because their spindle fibers connect to the cell wall;
  • have one or more vacuoles; despite animal cells having many more vacuoles, these organelles do not take up the volume that the central vacuole does in plant cells.

Plant Cells


  • have a cell wall over the cell membrane composed of cellulose and hemicellulose, pectin and lignin; the cell wall is secreted by the protoplast on the outside of the cell membrane;
  • have chloroplasts which contain chlorophylls, meaning light-absorbing pigments that help plants in the photosynthesis process; this process enables plants to make their own food;
  • are more square shaped due to the cell wall that supports a rigid, typically rectangular structure;
  • have plasmodesmata, meaning microscopic channels that traverse the cell walls; they are considered to be communication pathways;
  • do not have centrioles (except for lower plant forms);
  • have a single, large, central vacuole that usually takes up 90% of the cell volume.

These are the main and most important differences between animal cells and plant cells. Except for these particular features, both animal and plant cells share the same organelles, which can be observed in the picture below.