Prokaryotic vs Eukaryotic Cells

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Key takeaways

  • Prokaryotic cells: Cells without a nucleus
  • Eukaryotic cells: Cells with nucleus

All living things are made from cells. A living thing such as a bacterium is made from one cell. While large living things such as humans are made from millions of cells.

When something is composed of just one cell, we call it unicellular. While if something is composed of many cells it is called multicellular. However, this classification system wasn’t enough for biologists. So they had to come up with this idea of prokaryotic vs eukaryotic cells.

We know that all living things have their genetic information, which is essentially a blueprint of how to make that cell. For a eukaryotic cell this genetic information is locked away in it’s nucleus. However, for prokaryotic cells, they just have their genetic information free floating and not locked away in a nucleus.

Bacteria evolved first on earth, they are extremely simple and as such they didn’t need a nucleus to store their genetic information – we call them prokaryotic cells for this reason. From bacteria evolved more complex organisms, both unicellular and multicellular. These did require a nucleus to store their more complex genetic information. We call these organism eukaryotic.


how stuff works


True or false:

  • Bacteria are the only cells that require a nucleus
  • All single celled organisms are prokaryotic

Exam style questions:

Question 1.

Compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. [4 marks]

Question 2.

Explain why bacteria don’t require a nucleus and cells that make up humans do require a nucleus. [3 marks]


False: bacteria are prokaryotic.

False: There are single celled eukaryotic organisms such as yeast cells.

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