Animal Cell Structure

Animal cells are typical of the eukaryotic cell, enclosed by a plasma membrane and containing a membrane-bound nucleus and organelles. Unlike the eukaryotic cells of plants and fungi, animal cells do not have a cell wall. This feature was lost in the distant past by the single-celled organisms that gave rise to the kingdom Animalia. Most cells, both animal and plant, range in size between 1 and 100 micrometers and are thus visible only with the aid of a microscope.

Anatomy of the Animal Cell
Anatomy of the Animal Cell

The lack of a rigid cell wall allowed animals to develop a greater diversity of cell types, tissues, and organs. Specialized cells that formed nerves and muscles—tissues impossible for plants to evolve—gave these organisms mobility. The ability to move about by the use of specialized muscle tissues is a hallmark of the animal world, though a few animals, primarily sponges, do not possess differentiated tissues. Notably, protozoans locomote, but it is only via nonmuscular means, in effect, using cilia, flagella, and pseudopodia.
The animal kingdom is unique among eukaryotic organisms because most animal tissues are bound together in an extracellular matrix by a triple helix of protein known as collagen. Plant and fungal cells are bound together in tissues or aggregations by other molecules, such as pectin. The fact that no other organisms utilize collagen in this manner is one of the indications that all animals arose from a common unicellular ancestor. Bones, shells, spicules, and other hardened structures are formed when the collagen-containing extracellular matrix between animal cells becomes calcified.
Animals are a large and incredibly diverse group of organisms. Making up about three-quarters of the species on Earth, they run the gamut from corals and jellyfish to ants, whales, elephants, and, of course, humans. Being mobile has given animals, which are capable of sensing and responding to their environment, the flexibility to adopt many different modes of feeding, defense, and reproduction. Unlike plants, however, animals are unable to manufacture their own food, and therefore, are always directly or indirectly dependent on plant life.
Most animal cells are diploid, meaning that their chromosomes exist in homologous pairs. Different chromosomal ploidies are also, however, known to occasionally occur. The proliferation of animal cells occurs in a variety of ways. In instances of sexual reproduction, the cellular process of meiosis is first necessary so that haploid daughter cells, or gametes, can be produced. Two haploid cells then fuse to form a diploid zygote, which develops into a new organism as its cells divide and multiply.

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