Overview of the Skeleton

Objectives

When you have completed this section, you should be able to

  • state the approximate number of bones in the adult body;
  • explain why this number varies with age and from one person to another; and
  • define several terms that denote surface features of bones.

Students typically begin by examining an articulated1 skeleton (dried bones held together by wires and rods to show their spatial relationships to each other) or a disarticulated skeleton (one that is taken apart so that the anatomy of individual bones can be studied in more detail). The skeleton is shown in figure 8.1. Note that it is divided into two regions: the axial skeleton, which forms the central supporting axis, and the appendicular skeleton, which includes the limbs (appendages or extremities) and the bones that attach them to the axial skeleton. The axial skeleton includes the skull, auditory ossicles, hyoid bone, vertebral column, and thoracic cage (ribs and sternum). The appendicular skeleton includes the bones of the upper limb and pectoral girdle and the bones of the lower limb and pelvic girdle.

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