Are there any issues with an animal (specifically a multicellular organism with nerves and muscles) having cells with rigid walls, like a plant or fungus?

  • $\begingroup$ I would think it would be a lot less of a problem for sessile creatures. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Sep 7, 2021 at 23:04

2 Answers 2


It is possible for an alien but for earth life it is is right out.

It will however create some limits you may not want.

It will limit how flexible it can be, but by not that much if it is chitin based like fungi, cellulose/plant cell walls are more rigid. the will not move quickly, you can't have rapid response and reset cells like muscles. Plant cells can have rapid shape change but they are one way or take a long time to reset. A Venus fly trap for instance can only close a few times and takes days to reset. This is because the close by growing stresses into the cell wall then releasing them all at once, those stresses have to be recreated by another growth cycle.

It will also drastically change their growth and anatomy, cells with cell walls can't migrate like animals cells, so no stem cells, no complex immune system, no rapid healing or scar tissue formation.

Their development can't be anything like ours for the same reason. Large parts of our early development rely on cell migration, such as gastrulation, this may be why animals have such varied anatomy compared to plants and fungi.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "No stem cells": pluripotent tissues in plants are called meristems; other than terminology, meristematic cells are pretty much the same thing as animal stem cells. "No rapid healing": plants do have emergency response mechanisms to deal with wounds. But plants are plants; they don't so much need to repair wounded organs as to isolate them -- plants have indeterminate growth (remember those meristems) and can always grow new replacements for the lost organs. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Sep 7, 2021 at 23:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @AlexP almost all non-woody cells in plants are pluripotent and meristem cells don't migrate they rapidly divide, its a big difference. they are like stem cells in nearly everyway except the ability to migrate. plants cant heal like animals by migrating cells into a wound, they have ot wait for the local cells to divide, they can speed that up but it is still very different in terms of speed $\endgroup$
    – John
    Sep 7, 2021 at 23:50

Could an animal exist with some tissue with cell walls?


It would be easy to imagine a modified organism that generates one small (comparative to body size) organ with cell walls, and its fitness would be only slightly impacted).

It might be an interesting experiment to cause a mouse strain to have a portion the dermal layers produce walled cells, and then run several generations to see where it goes.

Could an animal composed of all cells with walls be possible?

Very unlikely to no. Perhaps with major evolution time to rework. I would think things like muscles, and lungs would just not function the same way at all with just a one to one replacement of unwalled to walled cells.


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