The structure of the cells vary according to their function. Therefore, the tissues are different and are broadly classified into four types : (i) Epithelial, (ii) Connective, (iii) Muscular and (iv) Neural.

Epithelial Tissue

We commonly refer to an epithelial tissue as epithelium (pl.: epithelia).This tissue has a free surface, which faces either a body fluid or the outside environment and thus provides a covering or a lining for some part of the body. The cells are compactly packed with little intercellular matrix. There are two types of epithelial tissues namely simple epithelium and compound epithelium.

Simple epithelium is composed of a single layer of cells and functions as a lining for body cavities, ducts, and tubes. The compound epithelium consists of two or more cell layers and has protective function as it does in our skin.

On the basis of structural modification of the cells, simple epithelium is further divided into three types. These are (i) Squamous, (ii) Cuboidal, (iii) Columnar

The squamous epithelium is made of a single thin layer of flattened cells with irregular boundaries. They are found in the walls of blood vessels and air sacs of lungs and are involved in functions like forming a diffusion boundary.

The cuboidal epithelium is composed of a single layer of cube-like cells. This is commonly found in ducts of glands and tubular parts of nephrons in kidneys and its main functions are secretion and absorption. The epithelium of proximal convoluted tubule (PCT) of nephron in the kidney has microvilli.

The columnar epithelium is composed of a single layer of tall and slender cells. Their nuclei are located at the base. Free surface may have microvilli. They are found in the lining of stomach and intestine and help in secretion and absorption. If the columnar or cuboidal cells bear cilia on their free surface they are called ciliated epithelium.

Their function is to move particles or mucus in a specific direction over the epithelium. They are mainly present in the inner surface of hollow organs like bronchioles and fallopian tubes. Some of the columnar or cuboidal cells get specialised for secretion and are called glandular epithelium.

They are mainly of two types: unicellular, consisting of isolated glandular cells (goblet cells of the alimentary canal), and multicellular, consisting of cluster of cells (salivary gland). On the basis of the mode of pouring of their secretions, glands are divided into two categories namely exocrine and endocrine glands.

Exocrine glands secrete mucus, saliva, earwax, oil, milk, digestive enzymes and other cell products. These products are released through ducts or tubes. In contrast, endocrine glands do not have ducts. Their products called hormones are secreted directly into the fluid bathing the gland.

Compound epithelium is made of more than one layer (multi-layered) of cells and thus has a limited role in secretion and absorption. Their main function is to provide protection against chemical and mechanical stresses. They cover the dry surface of the skin, the moist surface of buccal cavity, pharynx, inner lining of ducts of salivary glands and of pancreatic ducts.

All cells in epithelium are held together with little intercellular material. In nearly all animal tissues, specialised junctions provide both structural and functional links between its individual cells. Three types of cell junctions are found in the epithelium and other tissues. These are called as tight, adhering and gap junctions.

Tight junctions help to stop substances from leaking across a tissue. Adhering junctions perform cementing to keep neighbouring cells together. Gap junctions facilitate the cells to communicate with each other by connecting the cytoplasm of adjoining cells, for rapid transfer of ions, small molecules and sometimes big molecules.

Connective Tissue

Connective tissues are most abundant and widely distributed in the body of complex animals. They are named connective tissues because of their special function of linking and supporting other tissues/organs of the body. They range from soft connective tissues to specialised types, which include cartilage, bone, adipose, and blood.

In all connective tissues except blood, the cells secrete fibres of structural proteins called collagen or elastin. The fibres provide strength, elasticity and flexibility to the tissue. These cells also secrete modified polysaccharides, which accumulate between cells and fibres and act as matrix (ground substance). Connective tissues are classified into three types: (i) Loose connective tissue, (ii) Dense connective tissue and (iii) Specialised connective tissue.

Loose connective tissue has cells and fibres loosely arranged in a semi-fluid ground substance, for example, areolar tissue present beneath the skin. Often it serves as a support framework for epithelium. It contains fibroblasts (cells that produce and secrete fibres), macrophages and mast cells. Adipose tissue is another type of loose connective tissue located mainly beneath the skin.

The cells of this tissue are specialised to store fats. The excess of nutrients which are not used immediately are converted into fats and are stored in this tissue. Fibres and fibroblasts are compactly packed in the dense connective tissues. Orientation of fibres show a regular or irregular pattern and are called dense regular and dense irregular tissues.

In the dense regular connective tissues, the collagen fibres are present in rows between many parallel bundles of fibres. Tendons, which attach skeletal muscles to bones and ligaments which attach one bone to another are examples of this tissue. Dense irregular connective tissue has fibroblasts and many fibres (mostly collagen) that are oriented differently. This tissue is present in the skin. Cartilage, bones and blood are various types of specialized connective tissues.

The intercellular material of cartilage is solid and pliable and resists compression. Cells of this tissue (chondrocytes) are enclosed in small cavities within the matrix secreted by them. Most of the cartilages in vertebrate embryos are replaced by bones in adults. Cartilage is present in the tip of nose, outer ear joints, between adjacent bones of the vertebral column, limbs and hands in adults.

Bones have a hard and non-pliable ground substance rich in calcium salts and collagen fibres which give bone its strength. It is the main tissue that provides structural frame to the body. Bones support and protect softer tissues and organs. The bone cells (osteocytes) are present in the spaces called lacunae. Limb bones, such as the long bones of the legs, serve weight-bearing functions. They also interact with skeletal muscles attached to them to bring about movements. The bone marrow in some bones is the site of production of blood cells.

Blood is a fluid connective tissue containing plasma, red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC) and platelets. It is the main circulating fluid that helps in the transport of various substances.

Muscle Tissue

Each muscle is made of many long, cylindrical fibres arranged in parallel arrays. These fibres are composed of numerous fine fibrils, called myofibrils. Muscle fibres contract (shorten) in response to stimulation, then relax (lengthen) and return to their uncontracted state in a coordinated fashion. Their action moves the body to adjust to the changes in the environment and to maintain the positions of the various parts of the body.

In general, muscles play an active role in all the movements of the body. Muscles are of three types, skeletal, smooth, and cardiac. Skeletal muscle tissue is closely attached to skeletal bones. In a typical muscle such as the biceps, striated (striped) skeletal muscle fibres are bundled together in a parallel fashion. A sheath of tough connective tissue encloses several bundles of muscle fibres.

The smooth muscle fibres taper at both ends (fusiform) and do not show striations. Cell junctions hold them together and they are bundled together in a connective tissue sheath. The wall of internal organs such as the blood vessels, stomach and intestine contains this type of muscle tissue. Smooth muscles are ‘involuntary’ as their functioning cannot be directly controlled. We usually are not able to make it contract merely by thinking about it as we can do with skeletal muscles.

Cardiac muscle tissue is a contractile tissue present only in the heart. Cell junctions fuse the plasma membranes of cardiac muscle cells and make them stick together. Communication junctions (intercalated discs) at some fusion points allow the cells to contract as a unit, i.e., when one cell receives a signal to contract, its neighbours are also stimulated to contract.

Neural Tissue

Neural tissue exerts the greatest control over the body’s responsiveness to changing conditions. Neurons, the unit of neural system are excitable cells. The neuroglial cell which constitute the rest of the neural system protect and support neurons. Neuroglia make up more than one half the volume of neural tissue in our body.

When a neuron is suitably stimulated, an electrical disturbance is generated which swiftly travels along its plasma membrane. Arrival of the disturbance at the neuron’s endings, or output zone, triggers events that may cause stimulation or inhibition of adjacent neurons and other cells.


The basic tissues mentioned above organise to form organs which in turn associate to form organ systems in the multicellular organisms. Such an organisation is essential for more efficient and better coordinated activities of millions of cells constituting an organism.

Each organ in our body is made of one or more type of tissues. For example, our heart consists of all the four types of tissues, i.e., epithelial, connective, muscular and neural. We also notice, after some careful study that the complexity in organ and organ systems displays certain discernable trend. This discernable trend is called evolutionary trend.

Morphology refers to study of form or externally visible features. In the case of plants or microbes, the term morphology precisely means only this. In case of animals this refers to the external appearance of the organs or parts of the body. The word anatomy conventionally is used for the study of morphology of internal organs in the animals. You will learn the morphology and anatomy of earthworm, cockroach and frog representing invertebrates and vertebrates.

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