The Human Skeleton

The human skeleton is made up of 206 bones. The functions of the skeleton are to provide support, give our bodies shape, provide protection to other systems and organs of the body, to provide attachments for muscles, to produce movement and to produce red blood cells.

The main bones of the human skeleton are:

  • The Skull – Cranium, Mandible, and Maxilla
  • Shoulder girdle – clavicle and scapula – humerus, radius, and ulna
  • Hand – Carpals, Metacarpals, and Phalanges
  • Chest – Sternum, and Ribs
  • Spine – Cervical area (top 7 vertebrae), Thoracic (next 12), Lumbar (bottom 5 vertebrae), Sacrum (5 fused or stuck together bones) and Coccyx (the tiny bit at the bottom of the spine).
  • Pelvic girdle – Ilium, Pubis, and Ischium.
  • Leg – Femur, Tibia, and Fibula
  • Ankle – Talus and calcaneus (not shown above)
  • Foot – Tarsals, Metatarsals, and Phalanges.

The skeleton can be divided into two parts known as axial and the appendicular. The axial skeleton consists of the central core of the skull, spine, and ribs whilst the appendicular is composed of the arms and legs.

How are bones formed?

  • Bones are formed by the ossification of cartilage. What this really means is all bones start off as cartilage (normally in the womb) and they gradually turn to hard bone (ossification) over a period of years.
  • Calcium is needed for strong bone growth.

More on the structure of bone

What are the functions of the skeleton?

  • Give the body shape and structure. It provides protection to the major organs, in particular, the chest (rib cage) and skull.
  • Muscles attach to bones via tendons to enable movement. When muscles contract, they exert force on bones.
  • Production of red and white blood cells within the bone marrow. This is a spongy substance is found in the cavities of long bones. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body which is important in the production of energy. White blood cells are important for fighting disease and infection. Platelets aid blood clotting when the skin is damaged.
  • Storage of calcium and phospherous. These minerals make bones and teeth strong.

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