Difference Between Cilia And Flagella [Notes & PDF]

Cilia and Flagella are small hair like cytoplasmic processes arising from the free margins of the cell. These structures have the same internal length; however they differ in size, length, number and chemical composition. Cilia and flagella are made up of microtubules and are covered by an extension of the plasma membrane. They also motile and their shape help them to either move the cell or move substances over and around the cell.

The main function of cilia in cells especially in animal cells is to move fluid, mucous or cells over their surface. On the other hand, in prokaryotes such as bacteria, flagella serve as propulsion mechanisms; they are the main structures that help bacteria swim through fluids.

In this article, learn the structural, functional and chemical differences between flagella and cilia. The basis of comparison include: etymology, density/number per cell, motion type, types, position on cell, length, cross section, beating synchronization, thickness, swimming motion etc.

Also Read: Difference Between Flagella And Pili

Difference Between Cilia And Flagella In Tabular Form

Etymology Pronounced as ‘silly-ah’ is the plural of cilium. From a Latin word for eyelash.   Pronounced as ‘fla-gel-ah’ is the plural of flagellum. From Latin word for whip.
Description Cilia are short, hair like appendages extending from the surface of a living cell.   Flagella are long threadlike appendages on the surface of a living cell.
Density Numerous in numbers (hundreds per cell).   Few in number (less than 10) per cell.
Motion Type Rotational, like a motor & very fast moving.   Flagella show slow, wave-like, sinusoidal and undulating movement.  
Types In eukaryotes they are found in two types: Primary/non-motile cilia Motile cilia   There are three types of flagella: Bacterial  Archaeal Eukaryotic
Swimming motion Cilia moves like the break breast stroke.   Flagella move in oar-like style.
Thickness They are thicker than flagella. They have a diameter of around 0.3 µm to 0.5 µm. Flagella are thinner than cilia. Flagella attached to the margin of most cells have a diameter of around 20-25 nm (0.02 to 0.025 µm).
Position On Cell Occurs throughout the cell surface.   Presence at one end or two ends or all over the surface.
Presence Found in Eukaryotic cells.   Found in both eukaryotic cells and prokaryotic cells.  
Length Short and hair like organelle.   Long wipe like organelle.    
Energy Production Cilia use ‘’kinesin’’ which has an ATPase active that produces energy to perform the movement.   Flagella are powered by the proton-motive force by the plasma membrane.
Examples Cilia present in paramecium.       Flagella present in salmonella.
Cross Section Nexin arm present.       Nexin arm absent.
Beating Synchronization Cilia beat in a coordinated rhythm either simultaneously (synchronous) or one after the other.   They beat independent of each other.
Role They play a primary role in locomotion, feeding circulation, aeration, respiration etc.   Helps mainly in locomotion.  
Diseases Cognitive impairment Retinal degeneration Hearing loss Anosmia Craniofacial abnormalities Lung and airway abnormalities Infertility Polydactyly Pancreatic cysts   Infertility Foodborne illness

Also Read: Difference Between microvilli and cilia

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