The Human Body: Human Skeleton Bookmark and Share

The human body skeleton

The human skeleton consists of both fused and individual bones supported and supplemented by ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. It serves as a scaffold which supports organs, anchors muscles, and protects organs such as the brain, lungs and heart. The biggest bone in the body is the femur and the smallest is the stapes bone in the middle ear. In an adult, the skeleton comprises around 14% of the total body weight, and half of this weight is water.

Fused bones include those of the pelvis and the cranium. Not all bones are interconnected directly: There are three bones in each middle ear called the ossicles that articulate only with each other. The hyoid bone, which is located in the neck and serves as the point of attachment for the tongue, does not articulate with any other bones in the body, being supported by muscles and ligaments.

At birth a newborn baby has approximately 300 bones , whereas on average an adult human has 206 bones (these numbers can vary slightly from individual to individual).

The skeleton has six main functions:

Support The skeleton provides the framework which supports the body and maintains its shape.

Movement The joints between bones permit movement, some allowing a wider range of movement than others, e.g. the ball and socket joint allows a greater range of movement than the pivot joint at the neck.

Protection The skeleton protects many vital organs.

Blood cell production The skeleton is the site of haematopoiesis, which takes place in red bone marrow.

Storage Bone matrix can store calcium and is involved in calcium metabolism, and bone marrow can store iron in ferritin and is involved in iron metabolism.

Endocrine regulation Bone cells release a hormone called osteocalcin, which contributes to the regulation of blood sugar (glucose) and fat deposition.