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Secondary I • 1yr.

Good morning!

How do you tell plant and animal cells apart with a microscope? Thank you!


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Explanations (1)

  • Explanation from Alloprof

    Explanation from Alloprof

    This Explanation was submitted by a member of the Alloprof team.

    Team Alloprof • 1yr.

    Thank you for your question!

    First, to answer your question, animal and plant cells must be distinguished by the following characteristics:

    • Plant cells have a cell membrane and cellulose wall which maintains their shape, rigidity and elasticity, whereas animal cells have only one cell membrane

    • Animal cells have many vacuoles, while plant cells have only one

    • Plant cells have many chloroplasts in order to photosynthesize, while animal cells do not.

    Thus, it is much easier to distinguish between the two types of cell with these differences in mind.

    This is a diagram of a plant cell:


    This is a diagram of an animal cell:


    The following characteristics are shared by both cells:

    • The cell membrane (3)

    • The nucleus (1)

    • The mitochondria (8)

    • The cytoplasm (2 )

    The following characteristics distinguish both cells:

    • The big vacuole of plants and the small vacuoles of animals (4)

    • Cellulosic wall of plants only (9)

    • Chloroplasts of plants only (13)

    Oftentimes, plant cells seem to have less rounded edges because of the rigid cell walls that keep them in a fixed shape. Conversely, animal cells often have a rounder shape and smoother contours, without well-defined angles.

    Lastly, it should be noted that organelles are often much less visible under the microscope than in the diagrams! For example, small organelles like mitochondria and chloroplasts may be trickier to observe than the nucleus, cytoplasm, vacuole, membrane, and cellulosic wall.

    Don’t hesitate to ask other questions!