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Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells

Comparing Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic Cells

A high power image of bacterial cells.

In this post Jayne explains how to compare and contrast Eukaryotic and Prokaryotic cells.

At A Level there is often a question asking you to give the differences between the two types of cells.

Bacteria are the only prokaryotes

Interestingly, the word 'eu' means 'true' and the word 'karyon' refers to 'nucleus.' So 'Eukaryotic' cells have a true nucleus. The term 'pro' means 'before,' and Prokaryotic cells are thought to have evolved before the evolution of the nucleus. The only Prokaryotes are bacteria which are thought to have been the first type of cell to have evolved on Earth. Eukaryotes include animals, plants, fungi and the protoctista (protists). 

There are two kinds of cellular life forms on Earth — prokaryotes and eukaryotes. How the latter evolved from the former is a mystery that has intrigued biologists for the better part of a century. In the early 1960s, Stanier, Douderoff, and Adelberg referred to the prokaryote–eukaryote divide as "the greatest single evolutionary discontinuity to be found in the present-day world"

  • Stanier R.Y. Douderoff M. Adelberg E.
The Microbial World.Second Edition. Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J1963



A sketch of a Prokaryotic cell. You may be asked to draw and label a similar diagram. Can you label this one?


An image of an animal cell which is a type of Eukaryotic cell.


can you complete the table ?
  • Below is a list of components of cells.
  • Clicking on the box will reveal its function and which type of cell it is in.
  • Hide the content in all the boxes.
  • Write two columns 'Eukaryotic' and 'Prokaryotic' and see if you can put the components in the correct columns BEFORE you click for your answer. 

Explaining biology clearly - you tube

Jayne now has a youtube channel where she is sharing her "stripped back" explanations of the major biological ideas, concepts and knowledge to be found in the popular A level courses. 

These are simple, no frills explanations produced live by Jayne with her pen, her whiteboard and her calm, clear commentary.

Each video lasts somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes each. 

Ideal for a quick targeted revision session.

Prokaryotic Cells

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