What Are the Two Main Types of Cells?

, Staff Writer
Updated May 22, 2020

Cells are everywhere. Think about the breath you’re taking right now. Cells are the reason. When you walk down the street, cells are responsible for that too. You are made of cells. Every living thing on the planet is.

There are hundreds of different types of cells. But the two types of cells that make up all living things are eukaryotic and prokaryotic. Explore these types of cells, their structure, and examples of each.

Neutrophil white blood cells immune system
    Neutrophil white blood cells immune system

Eukaryotic Type of Cells

You are made of eukaryotic cells. All humans and animals are. In fact, you aren’t the only ones. Plants, animals, and fungi also have eukaryotic cells. So, what makes a eukaryotic cell so special? Well, the structure of course!

Get your microscope ready. It’s time to shrink down and see what these cells look like up close and personal.


Structure of a Eukaryotic Cell

One of the most noticeable things about eukaryotic cells is they have a lot of parts, and they need them. They do a lot of different things. While structures of a eukaryotic cell might vary by type, the basic parts include the following.

Diagram of Animal and Plant Eukaryotic Cells
    Diagram of Animal and Plant Eukaryotic Cells
    TefiM / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Protective Membrane

Depending on the cell, this can be called a number of different names like cytoplasmic membrane, cell wall, or cell membrane. Regardless of the name, it provides a protective barrier to separate the inside and outside of the cell.


One of the main things that make eukaryotic cells unique is their brain or nucleus. This is where the magic happens in the cell since it contains all the genetic material like DNA.

Other Organelles

Eukaryotic cells have a plethora of other different organelles. However, these can vary slightly depending on whether the cell is a plant, animal, fungi, or protist. Just a few of the different organelles include:


Examples of Eukaryotic Cells

From the grass under your feet to the birds in the sky, every creature is made from eukaryotic cells. Breaking out all the different examples of eukaryotic cells would make for a long list including all animals, plants, and fungi. One of the most unique eukaryotic cells include the single-celled organism called a protist. Interesting examples of protists include amoeba and algae.

Prokaryotic Type of Cells

When it comes to prokaryotic cells, simple is the name of the game. Unlike the complicated eukaryotic cells, prokaryotic cells don’t have a nucleus. They also only come in two types: bacteria and archaea.

Diagram of Prokaryotic Cell
    Diagram of Prokaryotic Cell
    jack0m / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty

Structure of Prokaryotic Cells

Just because prokaryotic cells don’t have a nucleus doesn’t mean they don’t have a brain. It just means their DNA is in the cell itself rather than being closed in a nucleus. Other structures found in a prokaryotic cell include:

  • Cell wall - coating around cell
  • Plasma membrane - tissue surrounding cell
  • Capsule - sac or membrane around cell
  • Nucleoid - area where the genetic material is
  • Ribosomes - protein manufacturers
  • Flagellum and pili - used for movement

Examples of Prokaryotic Cells

A lot of bacteria are out there. You’ve probably heard about many of them, such as E. coli, staph, and strep, because they make you ill. Archaea aren’t as well-known. Able to survive in harsh environments, two common examples of archaea include methanogens and thermophiles.

Knowing Your Cell Types

When it comes to cell types, you have 200 in your body alone. Thankfully, the types of cells all other cells fall into are broken down into two: eukaryotic and prokaryotic. Now that cells are out of the way, learn more about the human body by checking out examples of lipids.