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Difference Between Cilia and flagella

algaeCilia vs. flagella

Cilia and flagella are auxiliary parts of living cells. Cilia help in preventing accumulation of dust in breathing tubes by creating a thin layer of mucous along the tubes. Flagella are mainly used by sperm cells to propel themselves through the female reproductive organ.

A multitude of living beings use these auxiliary organs for various purposes. While paramecium uses them for swimming, mussels use them for feeding. An interesting fact is that green algae use cilia and flagella for mating. Cilia and flagella also have a similar internal structure. The presence of parts such as various tubes, outer doublets and protein connectors such as nexin links and dynein arms are quite similar in both.

However, cilia and flagella have certain unique features as well. Both cilia and flagella consist of an array of nine filaments that include complete and partial microtubules, and also parts of single microtubules. The microtubules are referred to as ‘axoneme’. The assembly of these microtubules is covered in a membrane which is merely an extension of the plasma membrane. The movement of both cilia and flagella is caused by the interactions of these microtubules.

Cilia are small hair like structures that cover a cell and help it to propel through fluid. Usually cells have one or sometimes two flagella that help in moving through fluid. Flagella are longer in size while cilia are shorter. The movement of cilia can be related to the breast stroke in swimming. Flagella move in an oar-like style.

How do cilia and flagella gain their energy to propel through fluid? Cilia use a molecule called ‘kinesin’ which performs an ATPase activity. The energy produced by this activity is what helps cilia to perform activities such as binding the kinesin to microtubules which turn results in movement of cells through fluid. Contrary to this, Flagella contain more cells and are powered by the proton-motive force by the plasma membrane.

Cilia that are present in the multi-cellular organisms help in moving fluids beyond an immobile cell. They also help in moving a group of cells. While snails use cilia to pass food through the digestive system, there are clams that use cilia to transport food and oxygen. Flagella are mainly found in gametes. Sponges and coelenterates take the help of flagella to perform their respiratory functions.

1.Flagella are longer in size while cilia are shorter.
2.Cilia contributes in the prevention of dust accumulation in breathing tubes by simply creating a thin layer of mucous in the tube while the flagella mainly uses sperm cells to move and propel.
3.Cilia use ‘kinesin’ which has an ATPase activity that produces energy to perform the movement while the flagella are powered by the proton-motive force by the plasma membrane.
4.Cilia moves like the breast stroke in swimming while the flagella moves in an oar-like style.
5.Cilia are present in multi-cellular organisms and help in moving fluids past an immobile cell while the flagella are mainly found in gametes.

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1 Comment

  1. This was very helpful! Thank you!

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