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Animal Cell - Structure, Function, Diagram and Types

“An animal cell is a type of eukaryotic cell that lacks a cell wall and has a true, membrane-bound nucleus along with other cellular organelles.”
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Animal Cell

We are aware of the fact that the cell is the structural and fundamental unit of life. It is also the smallest and the most basic biological unit of living organisms. On the basis of the cellular organization, cells are further classified as eukaryotic and prokaryotic. Plant cells and animal cells fall under the eukaryotic category.

Let us have a detailed overview of the animal cell, its types, diagram and structure.

Animal Cell Definition

“An animal cell is a type of eukaryotic cell that lacks a cell wall and has a true, membrane-bound nucleus along with other cellular organelles.”

Explanation

Animal cells range in size from a few microscopic microns to a few millimetres. The largest known animal cell is the ostrich egg, which can stretch over 5.1 inches across and weighs about 1.4 kilograms.  This is in stark contrast to the neuron in the human body, which is just 100 microns across.

The shape of animal cells also varies, with some being flat, others oval or rod-shaped. There are also more intriguing shapes such as curved, spherical, concave and rectangular. Most of the cells are microscopic in size and can only be seen under the microscope. 

As stated before, animal cells are eukaryotic cells with a membrane-bound nucleus. Furthermore, these cells exhibit the presence of DNA inside the nucleus. They also comprise other membrane-bound organelles and cellular structures which carry out specific functions necessary for a cell to function properly.

Animal Cell Diagram

The diagram given below depicts the structural organization of the animal cell. The various cell organelles present in an animal cell are clearly marked in the animal cell diagram provided below.

Animal cell diagram detailing the various organelles
Animal cell diagram detailing the various organelles

Though this animal cell diagram is not representative of any one particular type of cell, it provides insight into the primary organelles and the intricate internal structure of most animal cells. Furthermore, it is easy to distinguish between a plant and animal cell diagram just by inspecting the presence or absence of a cell wall.

Animal Cell Structure

Animal cells are generally smaller than plant cells.  Another defining characteristic is its irregular shape. This is due to the absence of a cell wall. But animal cells share other cellular organelles with plant cells as both have evolved from eukaryotic cells.

A typical animal cell comprises the following cell organelles:

Cell Membrane

A thin semipermeable membrane layer of lipids and proteins surrounding the cell. Its primary role is to protect the cell from its surrounding. Also, it controls the entry and exit of nutrients and other microscopic entities into the cell. For this reason, cell membranes are known as semi-permeable or selectively permeable membranes.

Nucleus

It is an organelle that contains several other sub-organelles such as nucleolus, nucleosomes and chromatins. It also contains DNA and other genetic materials.

Nuclear Membrane

It is a double-membrane structure that surrounds the nucleus. It is also referred to as the nuclear envelope.

Centrosome

It is a small organelle found near the nucleus, which has a thick centre with radiating tubules. The centrosomes are where microtubules are produced.

Lysosome

They are round organelles surrounded by a membrane and comprising digestive enzymes which help in digestion, excretion and in the cell renewal process.

Cytoplasm

A jelly-like material which contains all the cell organelles, enclosed within the cell membrane. The substance found within the cell nucleus, contained by the nuclear membrane is called the nucleoplasm.

Golgi Apparatus

A flat, smooth layered, sac-like organelle which is located near the nucleus and involved in manufacturing, storing, packing and transporting the particles throughout the cell.

Mitochondrion

They are spherical or rod-shaped organelles with a double membrane. They are the powerhouse of a cell as they play an important role in releasing energy.

Ribosome

They are small organelles made up of RNA-rich cytoplasmic granules, and they are the sites of protein synthesis.

Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER)

This cellular organelle is composed of a thin, winding network of membranous sacs originating from the nucleus.

Vacuole

A membrane-bound organelle present inside a cell involved in maintaining shape and storing water, food, wastes, etc.

Nucleopore

They are tiny holes present in the nuclear membrane which are involved in the movement of nucleic acids and proteins across the nuclear membrane.

Animal Cell Types

There are numerous types of animal cells, each designed to serve specific functions. The most common types of animal cells are:

Skin Cells

Melanocytes, keratinocytes,  Merkel cells and Langerhans cells

Muscle Cells

Myocyte, Myosatellite cells, Tendon cells, Cardiac muscle cells

Blood Cells

Leukocytes, erythrocytes, platelet

Nerve Cells

Schwann cell, glial cells etc

Fat Cells

Adipocytes

Points to Note About Animal Cell

The cell is the structural and functional unit of life. These cells differ in their shapes, sizes and their structure as they have to fulfil specific functions. Plant cells and animal cells share some common features as both are eukaryotic cells.

However, they differ as animals need to adapt to a more active and non-sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, animals need to acquire their own food, therefore, they do not possess any of the specialized cell organelles such as chloroplasts.

Animal Cell is a fundamental topic taught in class 9 and higher. To find more information about the animal cell structure, its types, functions cell diagrams or other related topics, please explore GMS Biology.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an animal cell?

As the name implies, an animal cell is a type of cell that is seen specifically in animal tissues. It is characterized by the absence of a cell wall, with cell organelles enclosed within the cell membrane.

Name the cell organelle that contains the genetic material of the cell.

Nucleus

Which cell organelle is responsible for the generation of energy for cellular activities?

Mitochondria

Name the double-layered membrane responsible for enveloping the nucleus.

Nuclear envelope

What is the role of lysosomes?

Lysosomes help in digestion, excretion and cell renewal process.

State the various types of animal cells.

  • Skin Cells
  • Muscle Cells
  • Blood Cells
  • Nerve cells
  • Fat Cells

Explain how an animal cell varies from a plant cell.

An animal cell is usually irregular and round in shape. This is primarily due to the absence of the cell wall, which is a characteristic feature of plant cells. Furthermore, animal cells do not have plastids as animals are not autotrophs.

Name the selectively permeable structure that envelopes the entire cell.

Cell membrane

Which cell organelle is responsible for packing?

Golgi apparatus

About the Author

At the helm of GMS Learning is Principal Balkishan Agrawal, a dedicated and experienced educationist. Under his able guidance, our school has flourished academically and has achieved remarkable milestones in various fields. Principal Agrawal’s visio…

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