I was asked a question in class: "Which organelles are easiest to see in any cells while using a microscope?"

This seems a little bit like a trick question, and since I'm not an expert in cellular biology, I'm not sure which organelle to go for. A cursory google search only lays out what organelles exist, and isn't clear on practical lab details.


closed as off-topic by James, WYSIWYG Feb 2 '17 at 4:40

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  • "Homework questions are off-topic on Biology unless you have shown your attempt at an answer. For more information see our homework policy." – James, WYSIWYG
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    $\begingroup$ Can you be more clear about why you are interested in this question? I would say the nucleus is the most obvious feature of most cell types unless stained for something particular, but good luck finding one in a red blood cell... Words like "any" and "all" are always going to be dangerous in biology. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jan 31 '17 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ I need this answered for hw in general what would be the eaiest organelle to see on a microscope. $\endgroup$ – Abey Jan 31 '17 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ You said you looked everywhere online, did you try searching for something like "easiest organelle to see"? $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jan 31 '17 at 2:16
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    $\begingroup$ This reads like a homework question without much in the way of attempts-to-solve — I'm thinking maybe it should be closed? $\endgroup$ – Asher F. Feb 1 '17 at 14:34
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    $\begingroup$ @AsherF. I agree this question should be closed. A google search for exactly the title gives the same answer (nucleus) in basically every one of the top results besides this one, and this is really just an introductory cell biology, hey let's start thinking about what the components of a cell are question rather than a serious biological question. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Feb 1 '17 at 16:37

A quick google revealed this slideshow that says the nucleus is the easiest organelle to see. Generally, this is what is taught in schools worldwide. Note that mature red blood cells don't have a nucleus, so this isn't a universal rule. The visibility of the nucleus also changes throughout the cell cycle.

In case they are trying to trip you up, double check what the definition of an organelle is. The easiest cellular structure to see is the cytoskeleton by proxy of the cytoplasm. The cytoplasm forms the largest portion of the cell, it can be easily identified as the space between all the other organelles, and it is universally present in all cells. Indeed, many definitions of an organelle allow cytoplasm and all should allow the cytoskeleton.

any of a number of organized or specialized structures within a living cell. -Google


a structural and functional unit, such as a mitochondrion, in a cell or unicellular organism - Dictionary

However this is the kind of answer akin to "skin is the largest organ in the human body", and isn't what your homework is guiding you towards.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't think the cytoplasm is typically considered an organelle; I would suggest editing that out of your post unless you can find a reliable source that shows that some sources do indeed classify "cytoplasm" as an organelle. I'd like to avoid confusion. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Feb 1 '17 at 16:34
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause It's certainly a cellular structure rather than a classic organelle. The part that is more traditionally considered an organelle is the cytoskeleton. I'm not really too fussed about semantics, and it's clear in the answer that the cytoplasm isn't really a good answer. That being said, definitions themselves don't seem to rule out the cytoplasm. I'm curious; did you have a specific definition of an organelle that rules the cytoplasm out? $\endgroup$ – James Feb 2 '17 at 1:44
  • $\begingroup$ While there are a lot of definitions of organelle, particularly between eukaryotes and prokaryotes, my main objection about the cytoplasm is that it isn't really...anything. It's sort of defined only by what it isn't: it isn't the nucleus. Everything else is cytoplasm. So while the cytoplasm definitely contains organelles it doesn't seem like it is an organelle itself; you couldn't define a function of the cytoplasm, sort of like you wouldn't call the "abdomen" an organ. I would agree with you that the cytoskeleton is an organelle. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Feb 2 '17 at 2:41
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause I've made a quick edit, but I think in all likeliness this question will be closed (I would initiate the vote if I hadn't already answered). Currently, it's a fruitless semantic argument - the cytoplasm is membrane bound and does carry out specialised functions within the cell. We would need to really tighten definitions up. Clearly, it's important in a research topic to understand what something does, not what it counts classically as. For us to answer in this case if cytoplasm should be counted among the ER etc, we need more clarification from OP (which I doubt will happen). $\endgroup$ – James Feb 2 '17 at 3:01
  • $\begingroup$ Yes I agree with respect to the ultimate fate of this post. I guess to me the difference is that you could, at least theoretically, "remove" the ER from a cell and then say "What was the result?" Same thing with a ribosome, etc. You can't really do that with cytoplasm; if you did you would just have a nucleus. Anyways we apparently already have a question on this - both bpedit and Joce do better in their answers at explaining their positions than I am here. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Feb 2 '17 at 3:05

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