Prokaryotes have the advantages associated with greater simplicity, including more rapid reproduction, rapid mutation and adaptation to new environments, and more diverse metabolic systems. They also possess an ability to pass on adaptive genes to other bacteria in the form of plasmids. While the organelles of eukaryotic cells provide distinct advantages, prokaryotes remain the most abundant and ubiquitous life forms.
Prokaryotes are named for their lack of a membrane-bound nucleus, but prokaryotes also lack any other membrane-bound organelles. They lack any chloroplasts, mitochondria or vacuoles, and perform any functions of these organelles in their cytoplasm. Prokaryotes possess two types of genetic information storage. The first, analogous to the eukaryotic nucleus, is a cluster of chromosomes known as the nucleoid. The second, only possessed by some organisms, is the plasmid, tiny rings of additional genetic information.
Eukaryotic life, including all multicellular organisms, could not exist without prokaryotes. One notable example is in the nitrogen cycle. Only certain bacteria are capable of splitting the triple bond of nitrogen gas to create nitrogen compounds, which are crucial, particularly to producers. Animals of all kinds rely on symbiotic bacteria to aid in digestion. Prokaryotes also inhabit incredibly hostile environments, such as deep sea thermal vents and acidic pools, where no eukaryotic organism could survive.