Plant and animal cells

There are many different types of cells in animals. Each type is specialised for a particular role. These ensure that the organism functions as a whole.

How different types of animal cell are adapted to carry out their function:

The head contains the genetic material for fertilisation. The acrosome in the head contains enzymes so that the sperm can penetrate an egg. The middle piece is packed with mitochondria to release energy needed to swim and fertilise the egg. The tail enables the sperm to swim.

Sperm cell

Diagram of a sperm cell

The cell is extended, so that nerves can run to and from different parts of the body to the central nervous system. The cell has extensions and branches, so that it can communicate with other nerve cells, muscles and glands. The nerve cell is covered with a fatty sheath, which insulates the nerve cell and speeds up the nerve impulse.

Nerve cell

Diagram of a nerve cell

Contain filaments of protein that slide over each other to cause muscle contraction. The arrangement of these filaments causes the banded appearance of heart muscle and skeletal muscle. Contain many well-developed mitochondria to provide the energy for muscle contraction. In skeletal muscle, the cells merge so that the muscle fibres contract in unison.


Muscle cells

There are many different types of cells in plants. Each type is specialised to do a particular role and ensures that the organism functions as a whole.

How some plant cells are adapted to their functions:

The root hair cell has a large surface area to provide contact with soil water. It has thin walls so as not to restrict the movement of water.

Root hair cell

Cross-section of root hair cell: a roughly rectangular shape with a long, thin tail extending to the right and a nucleus at the top left.

There are no top and bottom walls between xylem vessels, so there is a continuous column of water running through them. Their walls become thickened and woody. They therefore support the plant.

Xylem cell

Diagram showing how the xylem transports water to the rest of the plant

Dissolved sugars and amino acids can therefore be transported both up and down the stem. Companion cells, adjacent to the sieve tubes provide energy required to transport substances in the phloem.


Diagram showing how the phloem moves food substances around the plant