Main Difference – Plant vs Animal Vacuoles
Plant cells and animal cells are eukaryotic cells, carrying membrane-bound organelles as vacuoles. Vacuoles in both plant and animal cells serve as storage organelles inside the cell. The main difference between plant and animal vacuoles is that plant vacuoles are large in size and are single in number whereas animal vacuoles are small in size and are more in number. Vacuoles are more important in plant cells to maintain the turgor pressure. Almost 90% of the cellular space of a plant cell is taken by its vacuole. Plant vacuoles store water that enters the cell through osmosis. Animal vacuoles store nutrients, ions, and water. They are important in maintaining both exocytosis and endocytosis as well.
Key Areas Covered
1. What are Plant Vacuoles
– Definition, Storing Elements, Importance
2. What are Animal Vacuoles
– Definition, Storing Elements, Importance
3. What are the Similarities Between Plant and Animal Vacuoles
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Plant and Animal Vacuoles
– Comparison of Key Differences
Key Terms: Animal Vacuoles, Cell Sap, Endocytosis, Exocytosis, Plant Vacuoles, Tonoplast, Turgor Pressure
What are Plant Vacuoles
Plant vacuoles refer to a cavity within the cytoplasm, which is covered by a single membrane and contains the cell sap in plant cells. The membrane that surrounds the plant vacuoles is called the tonoplast. These vacuoles mainly contain water and occupy up to 90% of the total volume of the cytoplasm in mature plant cells. These vacuoles also contain mineral salts, sucrose, amino acids, proteins, and waste materials. Plant vacuoles contain water-soluble pigments. The vacuole of a plant cell is shown in figure 1.
The main function of the plant vacuoles is to maintain the turgor pressure of the cell. The plasma membrane of the cell is pushed against the cell wall by the turgor pressure. Plant cells obtain water into their vacuoles through osmosis. Vacuole helps to maintain the shape of the cell during dehydration. They are important for the maintenance of osmotic concentration of the cell. Plant vacuoles that contain digestive enzymes may serve as lysosomes. Dissolved anthocyanin in the epidermal cells of the Rhoeo is shown in figure 2. Anthocyanin is a water-soluble pigment in plant cells.
One of the most significant roles of the plant vacuoles is the detoxification of heavy metals inside the cell.
What are Animal Vacuoles
Animal vacuoles refer to a cavity within the cytoplasm, which contains fluid, food or metabolic wastes in animal cells. Animal cells contain several vacuoles in a smaller size. The vacuoles that contain the ingested food materials in animals are called food vacuoles. The unicellular organisms use their vacuoles as excretory organelles. A vacuole in an animal cell is shown in figure 3.
The main function of animal vacuoles is the endocytosis and exocytosis. Some vacuoles are made by endocytosis. Others are formed from Golgi bodies, and they are used to excrete substances by exocytosis. Vacuoles that contain digestive enzymes help in the digestion of the ingested food. Pathogenic cells such as bacteria are destroyed by fusing with the lysosomes inside the animal cell.
Similarities Between Plant and Animal Vacuoles
- Both plant and animal vacuoles are enclosed by a single membrane.
- The main function of both plant and animal vacuoles is to store important substances of the cell.
Difference Between Plant and Animal Vacuoles
Plant Vacuoles: A plant vacuole is a cavity within the cytoplasm, which is covered by a single membrane and contains the cell sap in plant cells.
Animal Vacuoles: An animal vacuoles is a cavity within the cytoplasm, which contains fluid, food or metabolic wastes in animal cells.
Size and Number
Plant Vacuoles: Plant cells contain a single large vacuole.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal cells contain several small vacuoles.
Plant Vacuoles: Plant cells often comprise a vacuole.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal cells rarely comprise vacuoles.
Plant Vacuoles: Plant vacuoles are permenent structures.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal vacuoles can be temporary structures.
Distribution within the Cell
Plant Vacuoles: Plant vacuoles generally occur in the center of the plant cell.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal vacuoles can be distributed all over the animal cell.
Plant Vacuoles: Plant vacuoles mainly store water.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal vacuoles mainly store nutrients, ions, waste products, and water.
Plant Vacuoles: Plant vacuoles are important in maintaining the turgor pressure.
Animal Vacuoles: Animal vacuoles are important in exocytosis and endocytosis.
Plant and animal vacuoles are two types of compartments in the cytoplasm enclosed by a single membrane. Plant cells contain a single, large, prominent vacuole. The main function of the plant vacuole is to maintain the turgor pressure of the plant cell. Animal cells contain several vacuoles that are small in size. Animal vacuoles can be either food vacuoles, lysosomes or excretory vacuoles. The main difference between plant and animal vacuoles is the structure and function of each type of vacuoles in the cells.
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2. Marty, Francis. “Plant Vacuoles.” Plant Cell, American Society of Plant Biologists, 1 Apr. 1999, .
3. Wada, Yoh. “Vacuoles in mammals: A subcellular structure indispensable for early embryogenesis.” Bioarchitecture, Landes Bioscience, 1 Jan. 2013,
1. “Plant cell structure svg vacuole” By Mariana Ruiz LadyofHats, labels by Dake modified by smartse – (Public Domain) via
2. “Rhoeo Discolor – Plasmolysis” By Mnolf – Photo taken in Innsbruck, Austria via
3. “Biological cell vacuole” By MesserWoland and Szczepan1990 modified by smartse – via