Animal Tissues


This topic gives an overview of; 

  • Animal Tissues
  • Epithelial Tissue
  • Connective Tissue
  • Muscular Tissue
  • Nervous Tissue

Animal Tissues

When we breathe we can actually feel the movement of our chest. How do these body parts move? For this we have specialised cells called muscle cells . The contraction and relaxation of these cells result in movement.

During breathing we inhale oxygen. Where does this oxygen go? It is absorbed in the lungs and then is transported to all the body cells through blood. The functions of mitochondria we studied earlier provide a clue to this question. Blood flows and carries various substances from one part of the body to the other. For example, it carries oxygen and food to all cells. It also collects wastes from all parts of the body and carries them to the liver and kidney for disposal.

Blood and muscles are both examples of tissues found in our body. On the basis of the functions they perform we can think of different types of animal tissues, such as epithelial tissue, connective tissue, muscular tissue and nervous tissue. Blood is a type of connective tissue, and muscle forms muscular tissue.

Epithelial Tissue

The covering or protective tissues in the animal body are epithelial tissues. Epithelium covers most organs and cavities within the body. It also forms a barrier to keep different body systems separate. The skin, the lining of the mouth, the lining of blood vessels, lung alveoli and kidney tubules are all made of epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue cells are tightly packed and form a continuous sheet. They have only a small amount of cementing material between them and almost no intercellular spaces. Obviously, anything entering or leaving the body must cross at least one layer of epithelium. As a result, the permeability of the cells of various epithelia play an important role in regulating the exchange of materials between the body and the external environment and also between different parts of the body. Regardless of the type, all epithelium is usually separated from the underlying tissue by an extracellular fibrous basement membrane.

Different epithelia  show differing structures that correlate with their unique functions. For example, in cells lining blood vessels or lung alveoli, where transportation of substances occurs through a selectively permeable surface, there is a simple flat kind of epithelium. This is called the simple squamous epithelium. Simple squamous epithelial cells are extremely thin and flat and form a delicate lining. The oesophagus and the lining of the mouth are also covered with squamous epithelium. The skin, which protects the body, is also made of squamous epithelium. Skin epithelial cells are arranged in many layers to prevent wear and tear. Since they are arranged in a pattern of layers, the epithelium is called stratified squamous epithelium.

Where absorption and secretion occur, as in the inner lining of the intestine, tall epithelial cells are present. This columnar (meaning ‘pillar-like’) epithelium facilitates movement across the epithelial barrier. In the respiratory tract, the columnar epithelial tissue also has cilia, which are hair-like projections on the outer surfaces of epithelial cells. These cilia can move, and their movement pushes the mucus forward to clear it. This type of epithelium is thus ciliated columnar epithelium.

Cuboidal epithelium (with cube-shaped cells) forms the lining of kidney tubules and ducts of salivary glands, where it provides mechanical support. Epithelial cells often acquire additional specialisation as gland cells, which can secrete substances at the epithelial surface. Sometimes a portion of the epithelial tissue folds inward, and a multicellular gland is formed. This is glandular epithelium.

Connective Tissue

Blood is a type of connective tissue. Now, let us look at this type of tissue in some more detail. The cells of connective tissue are loosely spaced and embedded in an intercellular matrix. The matrix may be jelly like, fluid, dense or rigid. The nature of matrix differs in concordance with the function of the particular connective tissue.

Take a drop of blood on a slide and observe different cells present in it under a microscope Blood has a fluid (liquid) matrix called plasma, in which red blood cells (RBCs), white blood cells (WBCs) and platelets are suspended. The plasma contains proteins, salts and hormones. Blood flows and transports gases, digested food, hormones and waste materials to different parts of the body.

Bone is another example of a connective tissue. It forms the framework that supports the body. It also anchors the muscles and supports the main organs of the body. It is a strong and nonflexible tissue. Bone cells are embedded in a hard matrix that is composed of calcium and phosphorus compounds.

Two bones can be connected to each other by another type of connective tissue called the ligament. This tissue is very elastic. It has considerable strength. Ligaments contain very little matrix. Tendons connect muscles to bones and are another type of connective tissue. Tendons are fibrous tissue with great strength but limited flexibility.

Another type of connective tissue, cartilage, has widely spaced cells. The solid matrix is composed of proteins and sugars.Cartilage smoothens bone surfaces at joints and is also present in the nose, ear, trachea and larynx. We can fold the cartilage of the ears, but we cannot bend the bones in our arms. Think of how the two tissues are different !

Areolar connective tissue is found between the skin and muscles, around blood vessels and nerves and in the bone marrow. It fills the space inside the organs, supports internal organs and helps in repair of tissues.

Fat- storing adipose tissue is found below the skin and between internal organs. The cells of this tissue are filled with fat globules. Storage of fats also lets it act as an insulator.

Muscular Tissue

Muscular tissue consists of elongated cells, also called muscle fibres. This tissue is responsible for movement in our body.Muscles contain special proteins called contractile proteins, which contract and relax to cause movement.

We can move some muscles by conscious will. Muscles present in our limbs move when we want them to, and stop when we so decide. Such muscles are called voluntary muscles. These muscles are also called skeletal muscles as they are mostly attached to bones and help in body movement. Under the microscope, these muscles show alternate light and dark bands or striations when stained appropriately. As a result, they are also called striated muscles. The cells of this tissue are long, cylindrical, unbranched and multinucleate (having many nuclei).

The movement of food in the alimentary canal or the contraction and relaxation of blood vessels are involuntary movements. We cannot really start them or stop them simply by wanting to do so! Smooth muscles  or involuntary muscles control such movements. They are also found in the iris of the eye, in ureters and in the bronchi of the lungs. The cells are long with pointed ends (spindle-shaped) and uninucleate (having a single nucleus). They are also called unstriated muscles.

The muscles of the heart show rhythmic contraction and relaxation throughout life. These involuntary muscles are called cardiac muscles. Heart muscle cells are cylindrical, branched and uninucleate.

Compare the structures of different types of muscular tissues. Note their shape, number of nuclei and position of nuclei within the cell.

Nervous Tissue

All cells possess the ability to respond to stimuli. However, cells of the nervous tissue are highly specialised for being stimulated and then transmitting the stimulus very rapidly from one place to another within the body. The brain, spinal cord and nerves are all composed of the nervous tissue. The cells of this tissue are called nerve cells or neurons. A neuron consists of a cell body with a nucleus and cytoplasm, from which long thin hair-like parts arise. Usually each neuron has a single long part, called the axon, and many short, branched parts called dendrites. An individual nerve cell may be up to a metre long. Many nerve fibres bound together by connective tissue make up a nerve.

Nerve impulses allow us to move our muscles when we want to. The functional combination of nerve and muscle tissue is fundamental to most animals. This combination enables animals to move rapidly in response to stimuli.


  • Animal tissues can be epithelial, connective, muscular and nervous tissue.
  • Depending on shape and function, epithelial tissue is classified as squamous, cuboidal, columnar, ciliated and glandular.
  • The different types of connective tissues in our body include areolar tissue, adipose tissue, bone, tendon, ligament, cartilage and blood.
  • Striated, unstriated and cardiac are three types of muscle tissues.
  • Nervous tissue is made of neurons that receive and conduct impulses.


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