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LET'S EXPLORE The human body

What is the skeleton for?

A young person’s skeletonA young person’s skeletonInside your body there is a strong framework of bones. This is your skeleton. It gives your body its shape and allows it to move. It also protects the soft organs inside against injury. Without a skeleton, you would be little more than a pile of jelly! There are about 206 bones in the adult human body, but a child has more. When a baby is born, it has many tiny bones. Some of them—for example, those in its skull—join together as it grows up. Different parts of the skeleton have different jobs. The skull, for example, protects your brain and shapes your face. The rib cage protects your vital organs, such as the lungs, heart, liver and stomach, from getting squashed. The long bones of the limbs work like levers to move your arms and legs.

A side view of the backbone, or spinal columnA side view of the backbone, or spinal column


Your spine, also called the backbone, is made up of a column of short bones, called vertebrae. This arrangement allows us to bend our backs. Together, the vertebrae provide a strong, flexible support for the body. The vertebrae also surround and protect the spinal cord, a thick bundle of nerves. The spinal cord runs down the back through a "tunnel" in the vertebrae.

Inside a bone

The stapes, or stirrup bone, in the ear is about 3 mm (0.12 inches) long in an adult. It is the smallest bone in the body.

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