Vacuoles or Vesicles
My science book says that both plant and animal cells
have vacuoles. My sister's AP Biology book says animal cells do not have
vacuoles, only plants do. Which is right?
Actually, both are wrong.
It may be
a matter of definition. In advanced textbooks, "vesicles" are
found in animal cells which act as a small transporting containers. Plant
cells and Protist cells (ONE-CELLED ORGANISMS) have containers called
vacuoles which serve some specific function to the cell such as water
regulation. Food vacuoles in some Protists act to digest food, but these
cells are not plant or animal by definition. Vacuoles are larger and more
involved in basic cell needs. Most vacuoles can be seen in school
microscopes. Vesicles are important to animal cells, but in a much smaller
way - one could say. They can not be seen by most microscopes.
In middle school textbooks, to make things a little easier to understand, I
have seen the two terms combined into the term "vacuoles". It is not
correct, but to understand basic cell concepts without confusing science
terms, a vesicle could be called an animal vacuole without harming the
important ideas being taught. Animal vacuoles are not plant vacuoles so a
distinction is made, but this is not really correct.
Some Protists (ONE-CELLED ORGANISMS) have cells move and act like animals
cells in that they must get their food. Plant cells make their own food of
course. Some Protists do have vacuoles and this may be what the middle
school textbook is talking about when they say that some animals have
vacuoles. Therefore, if your sister said that only plants have vacuoles,
she is incorrect!
Just review your sister's book and you will see that your textbook does not
have the details or explanations. These will come later when you are in
high school biology courses. Your teacher's chose your textbook because it
helps them teach you biology. It may not be 100% correct. However, it should
be pointed out that even AP Biology textbooks have mistakes in them. I know,
I have seen them all.
A.P. Biology Teacher
Click here to return to the Zoology Archives
Update: June 2012