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Cell specialisation

Cells within multicellular organisms are specialised for particular functions.

Cells that are specialised are able to perform their functions much more effectively than undifferentiated cells.

The principle is the same as society. A group of people can get more done when each specialises on certain functions.

It would be a waste of resources if all cells in a plant, even root cells and cells inside the stem not exposed to light, developed the structures needed for photosynthesis.

Below are three examples of specialised cells:

Cell type Function Features
Root hair cell
Absorbing water from the soil
  • Finger-like projection increases surface area
  • Selective absorption of minerals and ions
  • Many mitochondria to produce energy for active uptake of ions
Xylem vessel
Transporting water around the plant
  • Strong lignin walls to resist high pressures
  • No cytoplasm increases water flow
  • No cell walls within vessels increases water flow
Red blood cell
Transporting oxygen in the blood
  • Contains haemoglobin that binds oxygen
  • No nucleus allows more space for haemoglobin
  • Biconcave shape increases surface area