Connective tissues encompass a diverse array of tissue types that are involved in binding and supporting body structure and tissues.

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Key Points

The lymphatic system is a part of the circulatory system, comprising a network of conduits called lymphatic vessels that carry a clear fluid called lymph unidirectionally towards the heart. Blood is considered a specialized form of connective tissue. In vertebrates, it is composed of blood cells suspended in a liquid called blood plasma. The primary tissue of bone, osseous tissue, is a relatively hard and lightweight composite material, mostly of calcium phosphate in the chemical arrangement calcium hydroxylapatite. Adipose tissue or body fat is loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes. Cartilage is a flexible connective tissue found in many areas in the bodies of humans and other animals, including the joints between bones, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the elbow, the knee, the ankle, the bronchial tubes, and the intervertebral discs. In humans, adipose tissue is located beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat), around internal organs (visceral fat), in bone marrow (yellow bone marrow), and in breast tissue.

Key Terms

cartilage: A type of dense, non-vascular connective tissue, usually found at the end of joints, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, in the throat, and between intervertebral disks. adipose tissue: Connective tissue that stores fat and cushions and insulates the body. blood: A vital liquid flowing in the bodies of many types of animals that usually conveys nutrients and oxygen. In vertebrates, it is colored red by hemoglobin, is conveyed by arteries and veins, is pumped by the heart, and is usually generated in bone marrow.

Connective tissue is divided into four main categories:

Connective proper Cartilage Bone Blood

Connective tissue proper has two subclasses: loose and dense. Loose connective tissue is divided into 1) areolar, 2) adipose, 3)reticular. Dense connective tissue is divided into 1) dense regular, 2) dense irregular, 3) elastic.

Areolar Connective Tissue

These tissues are widely distributed and serve as a universal packing material between other tissues. The functions of areolar connective tissue include the support and binding of other tissues.

It also helps in defending against infection. When a body region is, the areolar tissue in the area soaks up the excess fluid as a sponge and the affected area swells and becomes puffy, a condition called edema.

Adipose Tissue or Body Fat

Adipose tissue: Yellow adipose tissue in paraffin section with lipids washed out.

This is loose connective tissue composed of adipocytes. It is technically composed of roughly only 80% fat. Its main role is to store energy in the form of lipids, although it also cushions and insulates the body.

The two types of adipose tissue are white adipose tissue (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). Adipose tissue is found in specific locations, referred to as adipose depots.

Reticular Connective Tissue

This tissue resembles areolar connective tissue, but the only fibers in its matrix are the reticular fibers, which form a delicate network. The reticular tissue is limited to certain sites in the body, such as internal frameworks that can support lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow.

Dense Regular Connective Tissue

This consists of closely packed bundles of collagen fibers running in the same direction. These collagen fibers are slightly wavy and can stretch a little bit.

With the tensile strength of collagen, this tissue forms tendons, aponeurosis and ligaments. This tissue forms the fascia, which is a fibrous membrane that wraps around the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.

Dense Irregular Tissue

This has the same structural elements as dense regular tissue, but the bundles of collagen fibers are much thicker and arranged irregularly. This tissue is found in areas where tension is exerted from many different directions. It is part of the skin dermis area and in the joint capsules of the limbs.

Elastic Connective Tissue

The main fibers that form this tissue are elastic in nature. These fibers allow the tissues to recoil after stretching. This is especially seen in the arterial blood vessels and walls of the bronchial tubes.


This is a flexible connective tissue found in many areas in the bodies of humans and other animals, including the joints between bones, the rib cage, the ear, the nose, the elbow, the knee, the ankle, the bronchial tubes, and the intervertebral discs.

Cartilage is composed of specialized cells called chondroblasts and, unlike other connective tissues, cartilage does not contain blood vessels. Cartilage is classified in three types: 1) elastic cartilage, 2) hyaline cartilage, and 3) fibrocartilage, which differ in the relative amounts of these three main components.

Elastic Cartilage

This is similar to hyaline cartilage but is more elastic in nature. Its function is to maintain the shape of the structure while allowing flexibility. It is found in the external ear (known as an auricle) and in the epiglottis.

Hyaline Cartilage

This is is the most abundant of all cartilage in the body. Its matrix appears transparent or glassy when viewed under a microscope. It provides strong support while providing pads for shock absorption. It is a major part of the embryonic skeleton, the costal cartilages of the ribs, and the cartilage of the nose, trachea, and larynx.


This is a blend of hyaline cartilage and dense regular connective tissue. Because it is compressible and resists tension well, fibrocartilage is found where strong support and the ability to withstand heavy pressure are required. It is found in the intervertebral discs of the bony vertebrae and knee meniscus.

Bone tissue is also called the osseous tissue. The osseous tissue is relatively hard and lightweight in nature. It is mostly of calcium phosphate in the chemical arrangement calcium hydroxyapatite, which gives bones their rigidity. It has relatively high compressive strength, but poor tensile strength, and very low shear stress strength.

The hard outer layer of bones is composed of compact bone tissue, so-called due to its minimal gaps and spaces. Its porosity is 5–30%. This tissue gives bones their smooth, white, and solid appearance, and accounts for 80% of the total bone mass of an adult skeleton.

Filling the interior of the bone is the trabecular bone tissue (an open cell porous network also called cancellous or spongy bone), which is composed of a network of rod and plate-like elements that make the overall organ lighter and allow room for blood vessels and marrow.


This is considered a specialized form of connective tissue. Blood is a bodily fluid in animals that delivers necessary substances, such as nutrients and oxygen, to the cells and transports metabolic waste products away from those same cells.

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It is an atypical connective tissue since it does not bind, connect, or network with any body cells. It is made up of blood cells and is surrounded by a nonliving fluid called plasma.