I overheard a rather heated argument about whether or not animal cells have vacuoles.

One person said that they do, but they're much smaller than vacuoles in plant cells.

The other person said they don't. While there is something there that acts similar to a vacuole, it's slightly different. The person also noted that the only websites that say that something as a vacuole aren't credible sites (ie. not University sites, etc...)

I'm really curious as to which it is: Do animal cells have vacuoles or not?


They are both right.

Animal cells do have vacuoles, but they are smaller, larger in number (plant cells usually have just one or a few large vacuoles) AND serve a somewhat different purpose than those of plants.

A vacuole is basically a membrane-covered compartment (vesicle) filled with molecules, that shouldn't, right now, be in the cytoplasm. For plants, this means long-term storage of water and waste products, which cannot be removed from the cell due to the cell wall. For animals it means mostly taking part in exocytosis and endocytosis - they are much more dynamic structures.

And about some half-professional sources, here is a bit from Molecular Biology of the cell which in fact calls plant vacuoles "a kind of specialized lysosome".


Yes! As a matter of fact Animal Cells do have vacuoles. Even though they are much smaller than the Large Central Vacuole of Plant Cells they still do exist in Animal Cells. Unlike the Large Central Vacuole of the Plant Cells they do not take up 90% of the cells and there are multiple vacuoles, but small ones might I add. Also in a Plant Cell there is only one vacuole the Large Central Vacuole.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ can you provide some citations to reliable sources? $\endgroup$ – Memming Oct 20 '13 at 21:12

Yes, animal cells do have vacuoles. They just have a larger number of them and some sites call them with different names. In a plant cell there is just one vacuole. Pictures of cells in textbooks,online,etc should show you that they have vacuoles, despite contrary beliefs elsewhere.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Provide a reference for ur answer. $\endgroup$ – biogirl Nov 13 '13 at 19:29

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.