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Prokaryotic vs. Eukaryotic Cells

All living things (organisms) are made up of cells. Cells are the smallest unit of life able to carry out the functions an organism needs to stay alive - like eat, breathe and reproduce.

Cells can be broken down into 2 types – prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells.  Both types of cells have some things in common.

  • They both have an outside lining called a plasma membrane.
  • They both are filled with a liquid medium called cytoplasm.
  • They both have tiny parts (organelles) that float around in their cytoplasm and do important jobs for the cell.
  • They both have a control center that contains the genetic material (DNA) of the organism of which they are a part.
  • In prokaryotic cells this is simply a thick mass of DNA called a nucleoid.
  • In eukaryotic cells this is called the nucleus – where the genetic material (DNA) is bound inside a nuclear membrane.


Prokaryotic cells are simpler cells and were probably developed first. Bacteria are prokaryotes.

Eukaryotic cells are more complex and evolved from these simpler cells. These are the cells of plants, animals, fungi and algae.

Prokaryotic vs. Eukaryotic Cells

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