Difference Between Cilia And Flagella

Humans and most other animals use limbs for locomotion. Some are bipedal (birds, humans) and others and quadrupedal (cows and horses). Aquatic animals use fins and flippers for locomotion. Birds traverse the skies with wings. But have you wondered how unicellular organisms move about? Amoebas move around using pseudopodia. Paramecium use hair like structures called cilia to help with their locomotion.Then there are other microorganisms such as Euglena that use whip like structures to move around. Let’s delve into the major difference between cilia and flagella.

Difference Between Cilia And Flagella

Difference Between Cilia And Flagella

The Cilia and Flagella are the most common forms of locomotion in unicellular organisms. Organisms with Cilia can move faster and more efficiently. Recent research has discovered that White Blood Cells move in a similar fashion. When the body injures itself, the WBCs sprout tiny legs and traverse the blood vessels like a millipede. Most prokaryotic and eukaryotic unicellular organisms have flagella, but they differ from each other structurally and functionally. The other difference between cilia and flagella are summarized below.

Difference Between Cilia And Flagella



The number of cilia is comparatively more (typically ranges in the thousands)

The number of flagella is comparatively less (usually ranges from 1 to 8)

Cilia is usually shorter in length

Flagella is comparatively longer in length

Beating pattern of Cilia is very complicated – Can move in wide range of motions

Beating pattern of Flagella involves circular, wave like or propeller-like motion

Found in Eukaryotic cells

Found in prokaryotic cells and eukaryotic cells

Cilia are of two types: Non motile cilia and Motile cilia

Flagella are of three type: Bacterial flagella, Archaeal flagella and Eukaryotic flagella


The Difference Between Cilia And Flagella are quite apparent. They differ structurally and have various patterns of movement. There are also different variations of cilia and flagella that fulfill various functions.

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