|Are all plant cells square and all animal cells
more round in shape?
I bet youre asking because thats how
textbooks show them. Asking whether the simple
picture matches reality is a sign of good
The truth is that
cells can be all sorts of shapes, it all depends
on what they do. For example, nerve cells
(neurons) need to connect with each other, so they
have long arms (axons) on one end for sending
messages, and arms on the other side (dendrites)
for picking up the messages from other cells.
Muscle cells are long and stringy and contract to
pull on your bones or other muscle. The cells in
your small intestine have little finger-like
projections on them so that they can absorb over a
larger surface. This site shows some animal cell
So why do they all look round in the book?
Imagine that you had to draw one animal to
represent all animals: worms, insects, birds,
mammals, fish, etc? What would you draw? Any
drawing would be wrong because it couldnt look
like a frog at the same time it looked like a
jellyfish. Thats the problem that textbook
artists have when trying to draw one cell to
represent all animal or plant cells.
cells are not all square either. Their shapes
also depend on their jobs. There are some
pictures of plant cell types at:
Plant and animal cells are different. Animal
cells have soft, flexible membranes. Plant cells
have them too, but they are inside a tough plant
wall that gives the cells their shapes. Plant
cells may have pigments like chlorophyll so that
they can do photosynthesis. Plant cells can also
have a big central vacuole, which is sort of like
a big storage bag of fluid in the middle of the
cell. Plants can use it to hold wastes or things
Do all one-celled organisms have
the same shape? Why do you think this?
Thanks for asking.
No- both come in a variety of shapes. There are
round plant cells (those containing starch in a
potato for example, or the sclereids that make a
pear "crunchy). Both animal and plant cells can be
very elongate (Nerves in animals, fibers and
conducting cells in plants) and some cells can
be highly branched (again nerve cells in animals,
and various hairs and sclereids in plants.
For images of plant cells do a Google image
search on "Sclereid" and you will get a range of
Plant cells are not necessarily square, but
they due tend to have distinct edges and be
somewhat rectangular. This structure is caused by
the cell wall which is very rigid and therefore
forces the cell to have a defined shape. However,
animal cells do not have a cell wall but only the
plasma membrane. So, they do not have a defined
shape. They are not necessarily round but instead
have an irregular shape. Here are some websites
with more information about cell walls, plant
cells, and some of the main differences between
animal and plant cells.
Actually, both plant and animal cells come in
many different shapes and sizes depending on the
cell's particular function within the organism
For example, neurons at the base of your
spinal cord can extend all the way to the tip of
your big toe (a single cell that's 3+ feet long!).
But there's an important difference between plant
and animal cell membranes: both animal and plant
cells have a flexible, lipid-based, 'plasma
membrane,' but plants also have a tough 'cell
wall' structure outside plasma membrane (made
mostly of the sugar polymers cellulose and
pectin). The cell wall makes plant cells look
more rigid, and this is why people sometimes draw
simplified plant cells as squares or boxes.
Theoretically, no, and there are some
exceptions (muscle cells are fibrous), especially
in animal cells. However, all plant cells have
cell walls, which animal cells never do, and the
presence of cell walls is what gives plant cells
their characteristic block-like shape, and the
absence is why animal cells, in the lack of other
factors, do not.
Cells come in all shapes and sizes, serving
different functions in animals and plants. The
natural tendency for cells, unless being used for
a specialized purpose (such as the long stretched
out filaments of our neuron cells in our brains),
is to take a somewhat spherical,round shape. This
is because it minimizes the surface to volume
ratio of the cell (in other worlds, it let's the
cell expose the least amount of itself to the
world around it). Unlike animal cells, plant
cells possess a cell wall, a rigid structure of
carbohydrates that gives the cells strength and
support. This thick coating around the cells,
especially when they are pressed together to form
a full plant,can certainly look square. But plant
cells come in just as much diversity as animal
cells, and can take many shapes. But in
general,because of the presence of the protective
cell wall, plant cells do look more "square" than
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