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Name: Coli
Status: student
Age: 11
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 2001


Question:
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?


Replies:
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.

Steve Sample
A.P. Biology Teacher


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