Difference Between Cilia And Flagella

Cilia and flagella are cell organelles that are structurally similar but different in the length and functions. Cilia are present in organisms such as paramecium while flagella can be found in bacteria and sperm cells. Cilia are shorter and numerous than flagella.

Cilia and flagella are the most common organelles for locomotion in unicellular organisms. Organisms with cilia can move faster and more efficiently. Recent researches have discovered that white blood cells move in a similar fashion. When the body injures itself, the WBCs traverse the blood vessels with the help of cilia. Most prokaryotic and eukaryotic microorganisms have flagella, but they differ from each other structurally and functionally.

Let us have a look at the important difference between cilia and flagella.

Also Read: What are Cilia

Difference Between Cilia And Flagella

Cilia vs Flagella

 The 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 a 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 types: Bacterial flagella, Archaeal flagella and Eukaryotic flagella

Cilia Overview

Cilia are short hair-like structures present in large number in eukaryotic cells.

Cilia are of two types:

  • Non-motile
  • Motile

The motile cilia are found in lungs, respiratory tract and middle ear of a human body. They prevent dust and mucus in the airways and facilitate the movement of sperms. Non-motile cilia are also known as primary cilia. They receive signals from nearby cells and act as antenna for the cells.

Flagella Overview

Flagella are hair-like structures emerging through the cell surface. Flagella are made up of the protein flagellin. They help in locomotion in prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Flagella are of three types:

  • Bacterial Flagella: These are found in E.coli and  Salmonella typhi. They are one or two in number.
  • Eukaryotic Flagella: They beat back and forth to bring movement. For eg., sperm cell.
  • Archaeal Flagella: It is similar to the bacterial flagella but is devoid of a central channel.

Also Read: What is Flagella


The difference between cilia and flagella is quite apparent. They differ structurally and have various patterns of movement. There are also different variations of cilia and flagella that perform various functions. To know more about cilia and flagella keep visiting BYJU’S website.

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