Difference between Cilia and Flagella Explained

Cilia and flagella are both organelles that are present in cells. They have the pretty much the same structure but they are functionally different and vary in length too. The Difference between Cilia and Flagella is also in terms of their abundance since cilia are large in number while flagella are fewer in every cell.

Difference between Cilia and Flagella

Cilia: Definition and Functions.

Cilia refer to the short appendages that appear hair-like and are present on the cell surface. They are short in length and have a rotational motion which is quite like a motor. They rotate very quickly and a single cell can hundreds of cilia on it. They are found in eukaryotic cells and the name from the Latin word for eyelash. There are two types of cilia; motile cilia and non-motile cilia.

Motile cilia are present on cell surface and they have a rhythmic beating pattern. They are also present in the inner lining of the windpipe. Here, they perform the function of cleaning the mucus and dirt particles from the lungs. Motile cilia is also found in the fallopian tubes where it propels the ovum to the uterus. Lack of motility in these cilia can cause ectopic pregnancy since the fertilized egg does not reach the uterus.

Non-motile cilia is present in almost every body cell and they do not beat. These are present in the nose, eyes and other sensory organs of the body.

Flagella: Definition and Functions.

Flagella are longer than cilia and they are thread-like in structure. They are also present on the cell surface and their sizes can vary. Their movement is like waves and they have a slower movement as compared to cilia. Since they are larger appendages, only few flagella are present on each cell, up to 10 in each cell. A major Difference between Cilia and Flagella is that flagella are present in eukaryotic and prokaryotic organism both while cilia is only found in eukaryotic cells. The world flagella is taken from Latin word for a whip.

There are three types of flagella. Bacterial flagella are helical in shape and they have a screw-like rotation. They are present in E.coli and some other bacteria. Their job is to provide motility and they may be present singly or in groups of two, six or more. Archaea flagella do not have a central channel but they are quite like bacterial ones.

Eukaryotic flagella are complex in structure and the most common example is the sperm cell. Flagella of the sperm cells propels it through the female reproductive tract. If there is flagellum dysfunction in males, it can lead to fertility since the sperm cell is not motile enough to reach the egg for fertilization.

Summary of Difference between Cilia and Flagella:

  • The Difference between Cilia and Flagella is in their function and presence since they are structurally similar.
  • They are made of microtubules that are arranged in 9 pairs.
  • Cilia are smaller as compared to flagella and their movement is also faster.
  • Cilia are only present in eukaryotes while flagella are present on cell surfaces of the eukaryotic and prokaryotic organism.

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