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Identify and Describe Key Features of Specialised Cells

In this worksheet, students will describe how animal and plant cells are specialised.

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Living things or organisms are made up of cells. Some organisms may be made up of just a single cell (unicellular), like bacteria, whereas others are made up of many cells, like a plant.

Some cells have particular jobs they need to carry out and are called specialised cells. Read below to learn about some of the most common specialised cells found in the body and in plants:

 

 

THE SPERM CELL -  The job or function of the sperm cell is to fertilise an egg cell. The head of the sperm cell, called the acrosome, contains enzymes which help the sperm cell to penetrate the egg cell. Once it penetrates the egg, the genetic material in the sperm cell can combine with the genetic material of the egg cell. This is known as fertilisation. Eggciting stuff!

 

Another clever feature of the sperm cell is the long tail.  This allows it to swim towards the egg. It uses the energy provided by the mitochondria to power the tail.

Picture of a sperm cell

 

 

THE NERVE CELL - The nerve cell also looks like it has a tail. This structure is called the axon, which can be really long. This allows nerve impulses to travel all across the body at lightning fast speed. The axon also allows nerve impulses to be passed along to other cells, like muscles. It's covered in a blanket of fatty cells called the myelin sheath, which helps to protect the nerve cell from damage and speed up the transmission of nerve impulses. 

Picture of a nerve cell

 

MUSCLE CELLS - These are arranged in bundles, which means that the muscle can contract or shorten. There are three main types: skeletal, cardiac and smooth. Skeletal muscles are connected to our bones, which allows us to move. Cardiac muscle cells found in the heart contract rhythmically, allowing the heart to pump blood around the body. Smooth muscle cells are usually found lining our organs and can help with contracting different organs - your bladder, for example. Muscles contain mitochondria, allowing energy for muscle contraction to happen. 

 

 

What about plants? Yes, plants have specialised cells too! 

 

ROOT HAIR CELLS - these are tiny projections on the actual roots of the plant. They give the roots a bigger surface area, which means more water can be absorbed. The thin walls of the roots enable water and nutrients to pass into the plant super quick.

Picture of a root hair cell

 

 

XYLEM AND PHLOEM CELL - Xylem cells transport water in one direction (from the root to the leaves) and are made of a thick hardened structure called lignin. The lignin helps to keep the plant upright and supported. Phloem cells transport glucose and other substances, like amino acids, up and down the plant to where they are needed. The mitochondria in the companion cells next to the phloem cells provide the energy needed for the movement of substances around the plant.

 

Picture of leaf with xylem and phloem vessel

 

In the following activity, you will be asked to describe the different specialised cells and how their adaptation helps them to carry out their job.

Specialised cells are cells with a specific function or role.

 

Picture of a sperm cell

What is the function of a sperm cell? Choose one answer.

To create life

To fertilise an egg cell

To just keep swimming

 Picture of a sperm cell

Describe how mitochondria and the long tail of the sperm cell help the sperm cell to do its job. Select two answers.

The tail allows it to swim towards the egg cell

Moving the tail makes the sperm cell stronger

The mitochondria provides energy for movement

The mitochondria gives the sperm cell nutrition for movement

Nerve cells have an important role in the human body.

 

State the function of nerve cells. Choose one answer.

Transmit signals around the body

Transmit feelings across the body

Transmit nerve impulses from one part of the body to another

Here is a picture of a nerve cell. 

Picture of a nerve cell

Two features of the nerve cell are the fatty sections covering the long tail-like structure.

 

What are the names of these features? Choose one answer in each row.

 Fatty coveringTail like looking structure
Axon
Myelin sheath

The axon and myelin sheath help the nerve cell to transmit nerve impulses across the body.

 

How do the axon and myelin sheath help with nerve transmission?

Match up the structures to their correct descriptions.

Column A

Column B

Axon
Long structure to allow nerve transmission around ...
Myelin sheath
Fatty covering to protect the nerve and allow spee...

There are three types of muscle cells, as shown in the picture below. The stomach contains smooth muscle.

 

Why do you think the stomach needs smooth muscle cells? Select two answers.

 

 

To enable the stomach to contract

To allow the stomach to churn and mix food

To make the stomach strong

All organs need muscle cells

Picture of a root hair cell

Root hair cells have an important job to do - they allow water and minerals to be absorbed from the soil.

 

What two features of the root hair cell allow water and minerals to be absorbed by the plant?

Thin walls to pass through

Thick walls to pass through

Small surface area to take up less space

Large surface area to absorb more water and ions

Xylem cells are specialised cells found in plants.

 

They are needed by plants to transport which important liquid? Select one answer.

Oxygen

Glucose

Water

Carbon dioxide

During photosynthesis, glucose and oxygen are made. Glucose is needed around the plant for many different processes.

 

What is the name of the cell that transports glucose around the plant?

Compare the structure and function of xylem and phloem cells. Select one answer in each row.

  • Question 1

Specialised cells are cells with a specific function or role.

 

Picture of a sperm cell

What is the function of a sperm cell? Choose one answer.

CORRECT ANSWER
To fertilise an egg cell
EDDIE SAYS
Fertilisation is when the sperm cell's genetic material combines with the egg cell's genetic material. When this happens, a zygote is formed. Eventually, this will grow to be a fetus.
  • Question 2

 Picture of a sperm cell

Describe how mitochondria and the long tail of the sperm cell help the sperm cell to do its job. Select two answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
The tail allows it to swim towards the egg cell
The mitochondria provides energy for movement
EDDIE SAYS
Did you remember the answer? Mitochondria release energy during respiration. This energy is used to move the sperm's tail so that it can swim towards the egg.
  • Question 3

Nerve cells have an important role in the human body.

 

State the function of nerve cells. Choose one answer.

CORRECT ANSWER
Transmit nerve impulses from one part of the body to another
EDDIE SAYS
The job of a nerve cell is to transmit or carry information via nerve impulses to different parts of the body. So for example, if you touch a mug of hot chocolate, a nerve impulse will be sent from your fingers to your brain telling you it's hot, then back to your fingers/hand to put the mug down before you burn yourself.
  • Question 4

Here is a picture of a nerve cell. 

Picture of a nerve cell

Two features of the nerve cell are the fatty sections covering the long tail-like structure.

 

What are the names of these features? Choose one answer in each row.

CORRECT ANSWER
 Fatty coveringTail like looking structure
Axon
Myelin sheath
EDDIE SAYS
These different parts of the nerve cell make it specialised and suited to its job. Remember, the axon looks like a tail (it's NOT a tail though, so don't write that in an exam!), and the myelin sheath is a fatty covering surrounding the axon.
  • Question 5

The axon and myelin sheath help the nerve cell to transmit nerve impulses across the body.

 

How do the axon and myelin sheath help with nerve transmission?

Match up the structures to their correct descriptions.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Axon
Long structure to allow nerve tra...
Myelin sheath
Fatty covering to protect the ner...
EDDIE SAYS
The myelin sheath of a nerve cell is really important, as it offers protection, but also helps the nerve impulses to travel super fast. With the axon being long, nerves can travel around the body easily (they can be short too, but often in an exam paper they'll be drawn as the longer looking structures).
  • Question 6

There are three types of muscle cells, as shown in the picture below. The stomach contains smooth muscle.

 

Why do you think the stomach needs smooth muscle cells? Select two answers.

 

 

CORRECT ANSWER
To enable the stomach to contract
To allow the stomach to churn and mix food
EDDIE SAYS
How did you do? The smooth muscles in our stomach can contract. Contracting allows our stomach to churn up and mix the food we've eaten, which helps with our digestion.
  • Question 7

Picture of a root hair cell

Root hair cells have an important job to do - they allow water and minerals to be absorbed from the soil.

 

What two features of the root hair cell allow water and minerals to be absorbed by the plant?

CORRECT ANSWER
Thin walls to pass through
Large surface area to absorb more water and ions
EDDIE SAYS
Root hair cells have thin walls which allow water and mineral ions to pass through really easily and quickly. The tiny projections of the root hair cell increase the surface area, allowing more water to be in contact with the cell. This means more water and minerals, which are needed for the process of photosynthesis, can pass into the root hair cell.
  • Question 8

Xylem cells are specialised cells found in plants.

 

They are needed by plants to transport which important liquid? Select one answer.

CORRECT ANSWER
Water
EDDIE SAYS
Water is essential for plants - they need it to photosynthesise, and so plants have their own network of xylem vessels. The xylem will transport water from the plant's roots to its leaves.
  • Question 9

During photosynthesis, glucose and oxygen are made. Glucose is needed around the plant for many different processes.

 

What is the name of the cell that transports glucose around the plant?

CORRECT ANSWER
Phloem
Phloem's
Phloem cell
Phloem tissue
EDDIE SAYS
Don't worry if you found that tricky! Phloem cells transport food or glucose up and down the stem (this is called translocation). The glucose is needed for respiration, growth and storage.
  • Question 10

Compare the structure and function of xylem and phloem cells. Select one answer in each row.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
You may have spotted that Xylem and Phloem cells do the exact opposite to one another. If you can remember one, you will also be able to work out the other. For example - a xylem cell transports water, whereas a phloem cell transports food. Did you spot this pattern? Keep up the good work - that's another activity done!
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