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Bones Bones Bones: Strong, Sturdy… Alive?

Bones Bones Bones: Strong, Sturdy… Alive?

Your bones are what the rest of your body is built on and around. In humans and animals, bones provide protection to internal organs and support for muscles as well as enabling easy movement. There are many lists out there regarding bones in humans and usually, they start off by telling you that you have 206 bones in your body as an adult. Yeah, about that…

#1. You probably don’t have 206 bones

New-born children have around 300 bones that eventually fuse together the older you get and eventually stop growing in size. However, ‘206 bones’ is more of a generalisation than a universal fact. Some people have an extra pair of ribs, some percentage of populations have extra sesamoid bones (sesamoids are tiny bones embedded in tendons or muscle) some people don’t have all the sesamoids, and there are often differences between individual people.  Another quirky fact is that there seems to be some difference in the way different specialists count bones, with hand and foot doctors often including more bones in their counts!

Don’t worry though, your bones are probably 99.99% similar to the next person, with just tiny variations in the total count.  Now you know that the count of 206 bones is close enough, but not exact!

#2. Your blood needs help from your bones, so does your brain

The neurons of your brain need minerals like calcium and phosphate to be able to fire and function properly. These vital minerals are stored in, you guessed it, your bones! Your bones don’t just give you support and structure but they’re also vital for brain function and muscle contraction. Equally important is the generation of blood cells, and the bone marrow is where ALL new blood is created.

#3. The tiniest bone in the body looks like a stirrup

If you’ve ever been horse riding or even seen someone ride a horse with a saddle then you’ve seen a stirrup. It’s those things attached to the saddle on either, upon which the rider places their feet. The smallest bone in our body is called the ‘stapes’ which is Latin for stirrup. Together with the Malleus (hammer) and the Incus (anvil), the stapes forms the bone group of our inner ears. You could both of your stapes on top of your fingernail, that’s how small it is!

#4. Bones are alive

We’re most familiar with the fact bones are built with calcium and most of us have the idea that bones are rather inanimate lifeless material. But your bones are in fact dynamic and active tissues, getting broken down, regenerated as well as self-repairing all through your life. Depending on the individual, your bones replace themselves completely every 7-10 years.

#5. Bone is NOT stronger than steel

Bone has high compressive strength, good flexibility and elasticity as well the all-important ability to self-repair. But even though bones have really good strength at dealing with compression, when force is applied too quickly, bone will break or even shatter in cases where steel wouldn’t even flinch.  

However, your bones are still an engineering marvel, with scientists and biomedical engineers still unable to find materials that have the amazing properties and strength of bone while still being light and somewhat flexible.

#6. There’s a bone attached to your tongue

I know what you’re thinking, the tongue is made up fully of soft flexible tissue, how can there be a bone hiding in there? The Hyoid bone isn’t inside your tongue, rather it sits in between your chin and voice-box, where it holds up the tongue above it. This would be at the base of your tongue and below it. Along with its associated muscles, the hyoid bone also helps to support the larynx.

This bone’s existence in humans (and the differences it has among our great ape cousins) helped scientists understand how and when we first developed the ability to talk like humans!

#7. You have the same amount of bones in your neck as a giraffe!

Giraffes (and you!) have 7 vertebrae in their necks, except of course theirs are much longer than ours, some specimens measuring more than 10 inches long. Another animal that shares the same number of neck bones is a mouse. In fact, most mammals (with some exceptions like those from the sloth family) all have 7 bones in their neck, of course with variations in size and shape depending on each creature.

Conclusion

Exercise and calcium-rich foods are a great way to ensure your bones stay strong and can regenerate properly. You need your bones to maintain their strength, as bones tend to lose density (and toughness) with age. Take care of your bones, and they’ll take care of you.