Cell Structures

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The study of cells had its birth with the invention of the microscope in the 17th century. In the years that followed, this new technology was improved upon, and scientists became increasingly familiar with the microscopic features of cells. In the late 1830s two German biologists, the botanist Schleiden and the zoologist Schwann, independently observed that all the organisms they were studying were composed of cells. This realization is now generalized in a simple principle: “the cell is the building block of organisms.” A few years later, Rudolph Virchow added that “cells come from pre-existing cells” based on his observations. These ideas comprise what is now known as the Cell Theory.

As the scientific study of cells progressed, scientists developed a classification system for cells based on their complexity. Prokaryotic cells, like bacteria, are quite simple because they do not have any membranous organelles such as a nucleus, mitochondria, or chloroplasts. Animal, plant and fungus cells are eukaryotic and contain organelles with membranes. Each organelle has its own characteristic structure, function, and contribution to the overall function of the cell.

The biggest advantage eukaryotic cells have over prokaryotic ones is compartmentalization. With an assortment of membrane-bound spaces (organelles), countless different reactions and processes can co-exist in eukaryotic cells without interfering with one another. Thus eukaryotic cells are more efficient, diversified, and specialized. The Cell Structures study guide unit considers the structure and function of many of the organelles that contribute to compartmentalization.

Cell Structures is excerpted from our Biology 12 Study Guide, which is the sixth edition of a student study guide written to match the curriculum of British Columbia. The concepts presented are applicable to the biology curricula of other educational jurisdictions as well.

As with each of the biology study guide units in this series, this unit contains:

  • Biological terms linked to a Glossary where they are carefully and contextually defined
  • Biological names in the Glossary linked to a useful Taxonomic Guide
  • Diagrams that display fullscreen views when double-tapped
  • Quiz-view formats of many diagrams in the enhanced version
  • Sets of Concept Check-up questions dispersed in the unit that are linked to their answers
  • Sets of Discussion Questions dispersed in the unit designed to challenge you as you work through it
  • A concluding set of Check Your Understanding of Concepts multiple choice questions linked to their answers
  • A set of Build Your Understanding questions designed to push you beyond the limitations of this unit.

Note: Discussion Questions and Build Your Understanding questions are not linked to their answers.