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What is the function of a plant cell and what is the function of an animal cell? Are their functions different?
Question Date: 2011-05-25
Answer 1:

This is one of the most important questions in biology since the cell is the smallest unit of life in either a plant or an animal and without it no living thing would survive. No matter what organism the cell comes from it has the same basic functions. Cells must be able to get nutrients from the environment, make new cells (reproduce) and use the nutrients to make energy for the organism they are a part of. There are many, many, many other things a cell can do in addition to there three things, for example, cells get rid of waste, send electrical signals to the brain, fight off disease, carry oxygen through the body and in the case of plants they make energy from sunlight.

Although, the overall function of the cell is the same, there are some important differences between animal and plant cells. The first difference is that plant cells have an organelle called chloroplast. Chloroplasts contain a pigment called chlorophyll (which gives the plant its green color). Chlorophyll is able to capture the energy from the sun. In doing this a series of chemical reactions occur that convert the suns energy into ATP (energy for the plant). The second main difference is in the structure of the cell itself. Animal cells are smaller than plant cells and have a membrane around them that is flexible and allows molecules, gases and nutrients to pass into the cell. Plant cells are larger and in addition to a membrane they have a rigid cell wall. The cell wall does not let any material pass so instead the plants cells must have tiny openings between cells like doors between rooms in your house. These "doors" are called plasmodesmata. The plant cell wall provides protection to the plant cell just like the animal cell does.

Here is a really nice table I found on line that lists similarities and differences between the two. In case your curiosity gets the best of you.

table 1

Answer 2:

Great question!Plants and animals are both, highly complex multi-cellular organisms, and there are many different types of plant and animal cells, all with different functions. Although there is alot of overlap in functions that are important to both plants and animals, there are certain things that only plants, or animals can do. For example, trees are not mobile, but they do compete with other trees in order to be tall enough to keep their leaves in direct sunlight. Therefore, plant cells have rigid cell walls that give them extra strength (think of a tree trunk). On the other hand, animals are mobile, their cells lack rigid walls. Animals even have specialized cells for rapid movement (your muscles). I encourage you to look all the different types of plant and animal cells and think about the function that each type of cell may be suited to. Hope this helps, and keep asking questions!

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