As some teachers might say, “This is a good question.” While knowing the number of bones in the human body may not be useful to the non-medical person, it is certainly important to doctors, physical therapists and others. It’s also interesting trivia for people to use in leisurely conversation.
So how many bones are there in the human body? According to one of the long-standing authorities on the subject, Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body, the skeleton contains 206 bones. This number is divided into four major categories based on shape and size: long, short, flat and irregular.
Other sources add to this knowledge by telling us that when a human being is an infant there are as many as 350 bones in the body. However, dudring growth many of these once-distinct bones grow together (known as fusion). Academic literature also shows that more than half of the bones in the adult body are in the feet and the hands.
It might also be interesting to know what these bones are and where they are located on the skeleton. The human body has 28 bones that are considered part of the skull. These include the bones that form the cranium or cap of the skull, the 14 bones in the face and six bones in the ear. There is a bone in the neck as well (hyoid).
The skeleton has 16 vertebrae that are divided into several sections: neck (cervical); thoracic; lumbar; sacrum; coccyx. The body contains 24 ribs and a breast bone known as the sternum. There are two clavicles and two scapulae which are parts of the shoulder “girdle.” Each arm has 30 bones, as does each leg. This adds 120 bones to the 206 total. The body may also has some “partial” bones that vary in number and some people actually have an extra bone, an extra rib or an extra vertebra.
Earlier, the number of bones in the hands and feet were mentioned as contributing more than half of the 206 total. Each hand has 27 bones, some of them very, very small. Each foot has 26 bones, and again, some of them are tiny. Facial bones number 14, as mentioned earlier. The femur, also known as the thigh bone, is the longest bone in the body. One of the ear’s bones, the stapes, is the smallest bone in the body. This little bone has the shape of a stirrup and is sometimes referred to as the stirrup bone.
One of the most interesting things about these 206 bones of the human body is that some of the bone material is not “dead” in the way we think it is. In fact, the bones of the body are very much alive. They grow and change as we age. Bones are made up of several parts: periosteum – a thin surface membrane; compact bone – the part we see as the skeleton; cancellous – sponge-like but strong; marrow – consistency of jelly, makes blood cells.