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    Phylogenetic Tree of Life
    Phylogenetic Tree of LifePhylogenetic Tree of LifePhylogenetic Tree of Life
    Phylogenetic Tree of Life

    Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic: 
    Two Basic Types of Biological Cells


    Article Summary: There are only two basic types of cells, primitive prokaryotes and the more complex eukaryotes. Here are the main features that distinguish these cell types.

    Prokaryotic & Eukaryotic: Two Types of Biological Cells
    Features of Prokaryotes
    Pro = “before”, karyon = “nucleus”
    Prokaryotes are primarily distinguished by the fact that they lack the eukaryotic feature of a membrane-bound nucleus. In fact, the only membrane in prokaryotic cells is the plasma membrane--the outer boundary of the cell itself. Their genetic material is naked within the cytoplasm, ribosomes are their only type of organelle.

    Only a few hundred years ago it was believed that living things could spontaneously generate, moment by moment, from non-living matter. We now know better. Living things are made of cells, and cells come from other cells. 

    Page last updated: 3/2016

    Instructor's Corner
    Two Basic Types of Cells
    Prokaryotic cells are evolutionarily ancient. They were here first and for billions of years were the only form of life. Today most life is prokaryotic, and these cells are supremely successful. All bacteria and bacteria-like Archaea are prokaryotic organisms. Eukaryotes can be single celled or multi-cellular organisms. Eukaryotic cells are more complex, having evolved from a prokaryote-like predecessor. Most of the living things that we are typically familiar with are composed of eukaryotic cells; animals, plants, fungi and protists. 

    Labeled diagram of a generic prokaryotic cell. For a practice assignment on diagramming a prokaryotic cell 
    Illustration of Binary Fission
    Binary Fission
    from the free STEM 
    education site