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KCSE 2020 Biology Essay Questions and Answers (KCSE 2020 Prediction Questions)

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Here are KCSES 2020 Biology Essay Questions and Answers (KCSE 2020 Prediction Questions). Content: 31 pages with 60 questions and answers.

BIOLOGY (231/2) Revision Questions (Essays): Expected Responses

Q1. Explain the various ways in which a typical cell is adapted to its functions

   Has a cell membrane; with pores; that regulates substances entering and leaving the cell; cytoplasm; contain sugars and salts; for maintaining its osmotic pressure; also has a liquid medium; for all biochemical reactions; nucleus; contain chromosomes having hereditary material; and controls all the activities of the cell; ribosomes; are sites for protein synthesis; golgi bodies/apparatus; for secretion of hormones and enzymes; formation of lysosomes; lysosomes; contain lytic enzymes for breaking down worn-out organelles; secretory vesicles; formed from golgi apparatus for secreting substances; smooth endoplasmic reticulum; synthesizes and transports lipids; rough endoplasmic reticulum; transport proteins; nucleolus; controls the activities of the nucleus; produces ribosomes; mitochondria; form sites for energy production; centrioles; formation of cilia and flagella; forms spindle fibres used in cell division; plant sap vacuoles; store salts and other dissolved substances; controls osmotic pressure and turgidity of cells; food vacuoles involved in digestion of engulfed food; chloroplasts; form sites for photosynthesis in plant cells;  Max. 20 mks

Q2. Explain how the various specialized cells are modified to carry out their functions in plants and animals

   Animal cells: Sperm cell; has acrosome containing lytic enzymes; that digest the egg membranes for penetration during fertilization; has a long tail; containing numerous mitochondria; to generate maximum energy for propulsion/swimming in the vaginal fluid after ejaculation; Red blood cells; are flattened, circular/spherical biconcave in shape; to increase the surface area for packaging of haemoglobin; has haemoglobin; that combines with respiratory gases; for transport to and from body tissues; White blood cells; are amoeboid in shape hence able to change shape; to engulf pathogens through phagocytosis; lymphocytes produce antibodies to fight pathogens; Nerve cell; has extensions/dentrites; to receive and send information for sensation; Ciliated epithelial cells; have cilia for propulsion of mucus that traps dust and micro-organisms in the respiratory tract; Muscle cells; elongated, striated and contractile; to bring about movement; Plant cells: Guard cells; bean-shaped; to regulate the size of the stomata allowing gaseous exchange; and control water loss; has chloroplasts with chlorophyll; for photosynthesis; Root hair cell; elongated; thin-walled; with dense cytoplasm for absorption of water and mineral salts; Epidermal cell; thin; for protection of inner tissues from mechanical and micro-organism attack; Palisade cell; contains numerous chloroplasts with chlorophyll; for photosynthesis; elongated; to increase surface area for trapping maximum amounts of light energy; Meristematic cell; thin-walled; with dense cytoplasm; for primary and secondary growth; Max. 20 mks

Q3. Describe how the mammalian body protects itself against infections

   Pathogenic microbes are found on the skin, respiratory tract, mouth, vagina and the intestinal tract; the skin; has a keratinised and waterproof cornified outer layer; that provides a mechanical barrier to microbes/prevents entry of microbes; sebaceous gland; produces sebum; which has antiseptic properties; the respiratory tract; produce mucus secretions that trap dust; cilia sweep/waft/propel the microbes to the pharynx for swallowing or to be coughed out; reflex actions of coughing/sneezing/vomiting help remove foreign materials from the respiratory tract/digestive tract; lysozymes/enzymes in saliva/nasal secretions/tears; digest walls of bacteria destroying them; gastric secretions such as hydrochloric acid lowers the pH in the stomach killing micro-organisms; clotting of blood; prevents entry of microbes after damage of blood vessels; phagocytosis; by phagocytes engulf and destroy microbes and other foreign bodies; lymphocytes are stimulated to produce antibodies; by proteins present in microbes protecting the body; antibodies destroy/kill micro-organisms through various ways: agglutinins; bind to pathogens making them clump together; killing them; Lysins; bind to pathogens and make them burst or disintegrate; opsonins; bind to pathogens making them easily recognized hence be engulfed/destroyed by other lymphocytes; anti-toxins; bind and neutralize toxins produced by micro-organisms; vagina is acidic; hence making it not conducive for growth and reproduction of micro-organisms; Max: 20 mks

Q4. How are the leaves of higher plants adapted to their functions?

    Broad and flattened lamina; to increase surface area; for absorption of light; thin blade; to reduce distance for diffusion of gases and penetration of light waves; transparent epidermis and cuticle; to allow light to penetrate to tissues; cuticle layer absent on stomata; to allow for gaseous exchange; one-cell thick epidermal layer; to reduce the distance over which sunlight penetrates; palisade cells have numerous chloroplasts containing chlorophyll; to trap maximum amounts of light energy; have stomata on the epidermis; to allow for gaseous exchange; and control of water loss through transpiration; palisade layer have elongated cells located at right angles to the leaf surface; for maximum absorption of light energy; spongy mesophyll; consists of spherical and loosely-packed cells; to create air spaces; which communicate with the atmosphere through stomata; for purposes of gaseous exchange and control of water loss; veins have conducting tissues: xylem; for movement of water and dissolved mineral salts; phloem; for translocation of manufactured food; Max. 20 mks

Q5.  Explain how the various teeth adapt mammals for nutrition

   Incisor; sharp; chisel-shaped; for biting; and cutting food; one root for support in the jaw bone; Canines; long; sharp; pointed; for holding prey; piercing; and tearing flesh from prey; single root; for support in the jaw bone; Premolars; large/wide; to increase surface area for grinding food; highly cusped; to increase surface area for grinding food; two roots; for firm support/anchorage in the jaw bone; molars; large/wide; to increase surface area for grinding food; highly cusped; to increase surface area for grinding food; Max. 20 mks

Q6. Describe what happens to a meal of oily beans and maize from the time of ingestion up to the time of absorption

   In the mouth; starch in maize; is digested by salivary amylase/ptyalin/diastase into maltose; food is chewed and mixed by teeth and the tongue; rolled into boluses by peristalsis; it enters into the stomach via the cardiac sphincter; in the stomach, gastric juice containing pepsinogen that is activated to pepsin; digests proteins in the beans; into shorter peptides; food is churned and allowed into the duodenum; via the pyloric sphincter muscle; in the duodenum; bile juice secreted by the gall bladder; emulsifies the oils in the beans into tiny oil droplets; pancreatic juice; secreted by the pancrease; contains pancreatic amylase; that digests starch to maltose; pancreatic lipase; that digests the oil in the beans to fatty acids and glycerol; trypsin; digests proteins into shorter peptides;  food enters into the ileum; where succus entericus is secreted; it contains maltase enzyme; that digests the maltose into glucose; that is absorbed; peptidase; digests peptides into amino acids; lipase digests the remaining lipids (oil) into fatty acids and glycerol; which is absorbed through the lacteals of the villi; Max. 20 mks

Q7. How are the small intestines in mammals adapted to their functions?

Small intestines consists of the duodenum and the ileum; most digestion of food occurs in the duodenum; bile from the gall bladder of the liver is secreted through the bile ducts; and it is used to emulsify fats/break fat particles into tiny droplets; to increase the surface area for enzyme action; the pancreas secretes pancreatic juice to the duodenum; the juice contains pancreatic amylase; that helps to breakdown the remaining starch into maltose; trypsin; (that is secreted in its inactive form, trypsinogen, and activated by enterokinase enzyme); hydrolyses proteins into shorter peptides; pancreatic lipase; converts lipids into fatty acids and glycerol; sodium hydrogen carbonate is also produced; to neutralize the acidic chyme from the stomach; and provide a suitable alkaline medium for pancreatic and other intestinal enzymes; the ileum is long; and narrow; to increase the surface area for complete digestion of food; and maximum absorption of digested food; highly-coiled; to reduce speed of food flow; for maximum digestion; and absorption; presence of villi; and microvilli; to increase surface area; for maximum absorption; dense network of capillaries; to transport blood; for efficient transport of absorbed food; presence of lacteals in the villi; for absorption of fatty acids and glycerol molecules; presence of enzymes: Lipase; for digestion of lipids into fatty acids and glycerol; maltase; for digestion of maltose to glucose molecules; peptidase; for breakdown of peptides into amino acids; sucrase; for digestion of sucrose into glucose and fructose; lactase; for digestion of lactose into glucose and galactose; goblet cells; produce mucus; to lubricate the walls of the ileum; for smooth flow of food; coats the walls of ileum to prevent digestion by peptidase enzyme; Max. 20 mks

Q8. Outline and explain the various homeostatic functions of the liver in mammals

   Deamination; process of removal of an amino group from an amino acid molecule; the process gets rid of excess amino acids in the body; as the body is not able to store them; the amino group enters the ornithine cycle; where it is combined with carbon (IV) oxideto form urea; which is excreted in urine through the kidney; Heat production; many metabolic activities take place in the liver; releasing heat energy; that is distributed by the blood to other parts of the body; this helps in thermoregulation; Storage of vitamins and mineral salts; Vitamins A, B, D, E and K; are stored in the liver; worn-out red blood cells, are broken down to yield iron; which is stored in the liver in form of ferritin; this is used later in case of shortage; Formation of red blood cells; occurs in the liver of the foetus; the liver also breaks down old/exhausted red blood cells; leading to formation of more in the bone marrow to replace the worn-out cells; to enhance oxygen and carbon (IV) oxide distribution; Regulation of blood sugar level; liver cells convert excess glucose into glycogen and fats under the influence of insulin hormone; the stored glycogen is however converted back to glucose; when glucose levels are low; by the liver cells; under the influence of glucagon hormone; Regulation of plasma proteins; plasma proteins such as prothrombin and fibrinogen are manufactured in the liver using the amino acids found in the liver; they play a major role in blood clotting; that prevents excessive blood loss and infection at the injured area; other plasma proteins produced by the liver such as serum and albumen; contribute to the maintenance of osmotic pressure in the body; non-essential amino acids are also synthesized by the liver; for use by the body; Storage of blood; the liver is highly vascularised; hence it is capable of holding a large volume of blood when the blood vessels dilate during hot conditions; when the temperatures are low, the blood vessels constrict under the influence of the endocrine and nervous systems; hence less blood is stored in the liver; this contributes to thermoregulation; Detoxification; this is the process where harmful compounds such as drugs and poisons; are converted to less toxic compounds in the liver; toxicity is caused by medication, drugs and microorganisms; the toxic compounds are later excreted in urine; detoxification prevents the accumulation of toxins in body cells; which could lead to death or malfunctioning of the body cells; Max. 20 mks

Q9. Explain why the following conditions are necessary for photosynthesis

  1. Carbon (IV) Oxide

Required in the dark stage of photosynthesis; it combines with the hydrogen ion from the light stage; to form glucose, proteins and lipids; low concentrations reduces the rate of production of energy and food; while high concentrations leads to an increase in the amount of energy and food formed;

  1. Light

It is used to break down water molecules (through photolysis); into hydrogen ions, oxygen and energy; the energy and hydrogen ions formed are used in the dark stage;

  1. Chlorophyll

Green pigment that traps light energy from the sun; that is used in photolysis of water molecules;

  1. Suitable temperature and pH

Temperature affects the enzymes involved in photosynthesis; suitable/optimum temperatures activate enzymes; for maximum production of food; while extremely low temperatures inactivate enzymes; leading to less or no production of food; high temperatures denature enzymes; stopping the process of photosynthesis; photosynthetic enzymes work well in low pH; so the rate is high; while higher pH reduces enzyme activity; lowering the rate of photosynthesis;

  1. Water

Forms a medium for the chemical reactions; it is split to yield hydrogen ions, oxygen and energy for use in the dark stage; solvent for the materials used in photosynthesis; Max. 20 mks

Q10. How is the ileum adapted to its functions?

      Long; and narrow; to increase the surface area for complete digestion of food; and maximum absorption of digested food; highly-coiled; to reduce speed of food flow; for maximum digestion; and absorption; presence of villi; and microvilli; to increase surface area; for maximum absorption; dense network of capillaries; to transport blood; for efficient transport of absorbed food; presence of lacteals; for absorption of fatty acids and glycerol molecules; presence of enzymes: Lipase; for digestion of lipids into fatty acids and glycerol; maltase; for digestion of maltose to glucose molecules; peptidase; for breakdown of peptides into amino acids; sucrase; for digestion of sucrose into glucose and fructose; lactase; for digestion of lactose into glucose and galactose; goblet cells; produce mucus; to lubricate the walls of the ileum; for smooth flow of food; coats the walls of ileum to prevent digestion by peptidase enzyme; Max. 20 mks

Q11. a) What is homeostasis?

         (Mechanisms of) control and maintenance of a constant internal environment regardless of the external conditions; 2 mks

  1. b) Name any three factors that must be maintained constant in mammalian bodies

          Temperature; Water; Salt or ion content; Carbon (IV) oxide; Glucose; amino acids; Max. 3 mks

  1. c) Explain how endotherms respond to heat and cold conditions in their environment

         Heat/hot conditions: Increased sweating; to lose heat through latent heat of vaporization; dilation of arterioles under the skin; to bring more blood to the skin surface to lose heat to the atmosphere; decreased body metabolism; to reduce heat generation; erector pili muscles relax; making hair follicles to relax hence hair lies flat on skin, no air is trapped; to lose heat; slow/reduced muscular activity due to slow metabolism; to reduce heat production; panting to expose tongue and mouth; to release heat; moving to shades to avoid direct heat; aestivation; to escape the extreme heat; flapping of ears to create currents to carry away heat; Cold conditions: stamping of feet; to generate heat; basking in the sun to gain heat directly; less production of sweat; to reduce water loss through latent heat of vaporization; vasoconstriction of arterioles; hence less blood flow to the skin surface to reduce heat loss; increased metabolism through release of more thyroxine hormone; to generate heat; erector pili muscles contract; pulling hair follicles hence hair is raised; to trap a layer of moist air; to prevent heat loss; shivering/rapid contraction of muscles; to yield heat to warm body; Max. 15 mks

Q12. Describe the route taken by water from the soil up to the evaporating surface of a plant

      Water is drawn into the root hair cells by osmosis; due to the presence of dissolved substances in the cell sap of root hairs, the concentration of cell sap is greater than that of the surrounding solution in the soil/concentration gradient; this exerts a higher osmotic pressure, thus drawing the water molecules across the cell wall and cell membrane into the root hair cells; more water drawn into the root hair cells dilutes the cell sap; making it less concentrated than that in the adjacent cortex cell of the root; due to osmotic gradient, water moves from the adjacent cells to the next by osmosis; until it enters the xylem vessels located in the center of the root; the xylem vessels of the root then conduct the water up into the xylem vessels in the stem into the leaves; there is a force in the roots which pushes water up the stem; this force is known as root pressure; and can be considerably high in some plants; energy from the endodermal cells of the root is responsible for driving this force; in the xylem vessels, water would rise up by capillarity; to some extent because the vessels are narrower and there is  a high attractive force between the water molecules and the cell walls; the cohesive; and adhesive forces are important in the maintenance of a continuous and uninterrupted water column in the xylem vessels up the tree to the leaves; water vaporizes from the spongy mesophyll cells; their cell sap becomes concentrated than the adjacent cells. This increases the osmotic pressure of the spongy mesophyll cells; as a result of this, water flows into the cell from other surrounding cell, which in turn takes in water from xylem vessels within the leaf veins; this creates a pull/suction force that pulls a stream of water from xylem vessels in the stem and roots. This force, known as transpiration pull; helps in maintaining a continuous column of water from the roots to the leaves; water flows from the midrib into leaf veins from where it enters leaf cells; from the mesophyll cells, it enters the airspaces; then the substomatal air chambers; from where it evaporates through the stomata; to the atmosphere; Max. 20 mks



Q13. How is the mammalian heart adapted to its functions?

Heart is enclosed in a pericardial membrane/pericardium; that produces a fluid; to lubricate it; the membrane also keeps the heart in position; It is covered in a fatty layer; that acts as a shock absorber; made up of cardiac muscles; which are interconnected/interacted hence contract and relax without fatigue or nervous stimulation/myogenic; for continuous pumping of blood throughout the lifespan of the animal; the muscles are supplied by nutrients and oxygen; by the coronary arteries; and the coronary veins take away wastes and carbon (IV) oxide; heart is divided into 4 chambers; for efficient double circulation/ avoid mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood/carry large volume of blood; has interventricular septum; to separate oxygenated and deoxygenated blood; ventricles are thick/muscular; to generate high pressure to pump blood out of the heart; left ventricle has thick muscles/more muscular; to pump blood to all body tissues; heart has bicuspid; and tricuspid valves; to prevent back flow of blood to left auricle; and right auricle respectively; valves have tendinous cords/valve tendons; to prevent them from turning inside out; semi lunar valves located at the beginning of major arteries; prevent backflow of blood into the ventricles; has sino-artrio node located in the muscles of the right auricle; to initiate heart beat/contractions of heart muscles/cardiac muscles, rate of heart beat is controlled by nerves; vagus nerve; slows down heartbeat; while sympathetic nerve; speeds up the heartbeat; has aorta; to transport oxygenated blood to all body parts; has pulmonary artery; that transports deoxygenated blood from right ventricles to lungs for oxygenation; has pulmonary vein; that transports oxygenated blood from lungs to the left ventricles; for distribution to all body parts; has the venacava; that  receives deoxygenated blood from all body parts to right ventricles; Max. 20 mks

Q14. Describe double circulation in mammals

 Deoxygenated blood from body tissues (except lungs); enters the heart via the right auricle; through the venacava; it flows to the right ventricle; via the tricuspid valve; the right ventricle contracts; pumping blood; via the semi lunar valves; through the pulmonary artery; to the lungs for oxygenation; the oxygenated blood from the lungs; flow through the pulmonary vein; to the left auricle; via the bicuspid valve; to the left ventricle; the left ventricle contracts; pumping blood via the semi lunar valves; through the aorta; to the rest of the body tissues; Max. 20 mks

Q15. Describe the process of urine formation in the mammalian kidneys

      The afferent arteriole which is a branch of the renal artery supplies blood to the glomerulus; the afferent arteriole has a wider lumen/diameter than the efferent arteriole; which takes away blood from the glomerulus; the differences in the diameter of the afferent and the afferent vessels causes high pressure; leading to ultrafiltration of blood; the walls of the blood capillaries are one-cell thick; hence glucose, amino acids, vitamins, hormones, salts, creatine, urea and water filter into the Bowman’s capsule; to form glomerular filtrate; white blood cells, red blood cells, plasma proteins such as globulin and platelets are too large to pass through the capillary wall; hence remain in the blood capillaries; useful substances in the human body are selectively reabsorbed; back into the blood stream at the proximal convoluted tubule; the tubule is highly coiled; to increase the surface area for reabsorption of the substances; the useful substances include amino acids, glucose, vitamins, hormones, sodium chloride and water; many mitochondria found at the proximal convoluted tubule; provide energy for reabsorption of these substances against a concentration gradient; the glomerular filtrate flows into the descending and the ascending limb of the loop of Henle; blood in the capillaries and the glomerular filtrate in the loop of Henle move in opposite directions/counter-current flow; this provides a steep concentration gradient that leads to maximum absorption of water through osmosis; sodium chloride is actively absorbed from the ascending limb into the blood capillaries; under the influence of aldosterone hormone; the glomerular filtrate flows into the collecting tubule from where, more water is reabsorbed into the blood stream; antidiuretic hormone influences the amount of water to be reabsorbed depending on the osmotic pressure of the blood; the glomerular filtrate from several collecting tubules now referred to as urine; is emptied into the collecting duct; the urine passes through pyramid, pelvis and ureter into the bladder; where it is stored for some time. The sphincter on the urethra relaxes to allow urine to be released from the body; Max. 20 mks

Q16. Explain the role of the following hormones during homeostasis

  • Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH)

Secreted by the (posterior lobe/end) pituitary gland; in response to an increase in the osmotic pressure of blood; the hormone stimulates the distal convoluted tubules and the collecting ducts; to increase their permeability to water; this increases the reabsorption of water into the bloodstream; concentrated and less urine is excreted; when the osmotic pressure decreases, less or no hormone is produced; hence the tubules become impermeable to water; less water is reabsorbed into the bloodstream; hence more dilute urine is excreted; fluctuations in the osmotic pressure is detected by the hypothalamus;

  • Insulin

Secreted by the pancrease; in response to a rise in blood sugar level; it stimulates liver cells to convert the excess glucose into glycogen and fats for storage in the liver and muscle cells; increases the oxidation of glucose in respiration to yield water energy and carbon (IV) oxide/increases metabolism in the body; this leads to a fall in blood glucose to normal level;



  • Glucagon

Secreted by the pancrease; in response to a decline in blood glucose level; it stimulates liver cells to convert the stored glycogen and fats back to glucose; stimulates the conversion of amino acids to glucose; and stops the oxidation of glucose in the body cells; the glucose formed is released to the bloodsteream causing a rise of blood glucose level to normal; Max. 20 mks

Q17. a) Distinguish between Diabetes mellitus and Diabetes insipidus

            Diabetes mellitus is a condition/disease caused by failure of the pancrease to produce adequate insulin hormone; leading to excess glucose levels in the body some of which is released in urine while diabetes insipidus is a condition caused by failure/inability of the kidney tubules to control the amount of water in urine as a result of a defect in production of antidiuretic hormone (ADH) leading to production of more dilute urine; Max. 2 mks

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