Cilia vs Flagella | 15 Prominent Differences

Cilia and Flagella are cell organelles which protrude out of cytoplasm and are meant for external functions of cells. Cilia are small hair like structures coming out of cytoplasm of many animals and cells.

cilia vs flagella
Cilia on surface of epithelium

Flagella are long thread like or whip like structures protruding out of cytoplasm through cell wall.

cilia vs flagella

Cilia and Flagella are cell organelles that look similar, but they have a wide range of differences

Sl. NoCharacteristicsCiliaFlagella
1External Morphology Short, slender, hair-like
Long, filamentous, thread-
like structure.
2OccurrenceSeen only in Eukaryotes.Seen in both Eukaryotes and
3DistributionClass Ciliata and members of other classes, ciliated
epithelium of Metazoa, larvae of Annelids, Molluscs, Echinodermates, and Platyhelminthes
Class Flagellata, Choanocyte
of sponges, spermatozoa of
the Metazoa, Algae, and
gamete cells.
4Position on the cellSeen throughout the surface
of the cell.
Seen in one or two ends or
all along the surface of the
cell/ organism.
5DensityNumerousOnly a few
6LengthRanges from 1 -10µm 5 – 20 µm, sometimes
measure up to 150 µm.
7WidthLess than 1 µm.Ranges from 10 – 30 nm.
8FunctionLocomotion, feeding,
circulation, aeration, signal
transformation in sensory
cells, expelling particulate
matters in the respiratory
tract, etc.
Locomotion only.
9Types1. Primary cilia or non-
motile cilia (seen in
almost all the cells).
2. Motile cilia (seen in
respiratory passages
like nose,pharynx,
and trachea; middle
ear, etc.)
Bacterial flagella
Archaeal flagella
Eukaryotic flagella.
10Types of motion 1. Fast-moving, rotational,
show back and forth
2. Show rhythmic,
coordinated movement.
3. Ciliary movement
sweeps materials
across tissues.
1 Slow-moving,
propeller-like motion,
undulating, sinusoidal
2 Show independent
3 Flagellar movement
propels cells forward
11Energy resourceUse ‘kinesin’ which has
ATPase activity
Obtain energy from Proton
the motive force of the plasma
12Internal structure Motile cilia:
1. It contains an outer
membrane that
encloses cilia, which
fuses with the cell wall
at the base.
2. Bounded space
contains a fluid matrix.
It has microtubules.
3. It has 9 fused
microtubule doublets
that surround 2 central
single microtubules
4. This arrangement is
collectively called an
5. Microtubule doublet
contains ‘A’ tubule and
‘B’ tubule. ‘A’ tubule is
a complete tubule with
13 protofilaments. ‘B’
tubule is incomplete
with 10 protofilaments.

Primary cilia
1. The matrix contains 9
fused microtubules
only (9+0). There is no
central tubule.
Eukaryotic flagella
1. Shows similar internal
morphology of motile cilia of eukaryotes.
2. It contains ‘axoneme,’
which has a 9+2
3. Thicker.
Prokaryotic flagella
4. There is no 9+2
arrangement of
5. Prokaryotic flagella are
made of a protein called Flagellin.
6. Thinner when
compared to eukaryotic
13Presence of NexinNexin protein is absentNexin protein is present
between the tubules to hold
them together.

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