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Skeletal system

Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. List the main functions of the skeletal system.
  2. Identify the two major subdivisions of the skeleton.
  3. Name the main bones of the human body.
  4. Describe the five main classifications of types of bones, based on bone shape.
  5. Understand the structure of a long bone.

Watch videos

The adult skeleton is composed of 206 individual bones. Together with joints, cartilage and ligaments these bones form our skeletal system.

The skeletal system has a number of important functions, it provides a protective and supportive internal framework for the human body, it forms a system of levers which skeletal muscles use to move the body in space, it stores fat and minerals and it is involved in blood cell formation.

Bone tissue is the structural component of bones. Aside from bone tissue, bones contain other types of connective tissue, such as hematopoetic tissue, adipose tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Bone tissue can be classified in one of the following groups: spongy (cancellous or trabecular) or compact (dense). Generally, compact bone tissue forms the dense outer layer of the bone, while spongy bone tissue forms the sponge-like meshwork of the interior of the bones.

Spongy and compact bones are found in specific parts of bones, in different ratios. There are several types of bones that differ in shape and parts they contain: long bones, short bones, flat bones, irregular bones and sesamoid bones.

Watch the following video to find out more about the bones of the skeleton, including its subdivision into axial and appendicular skeletons.

Learn how bones are classified by shape, by watching the video below.

To improve your understanding of skeletal system terminology, take a closer look at some commonly used roots, prefixes and suffixes related to the skeletal system in the video below.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video about the main bones of the human body, solidify your knowledge by taking the following quiz.

Now test your knowledge even further by taking a quiz on the structure of a typical long bone. 

If these quizzes were too easy for you, don't worry, we've got you covered. You can now choose your own topics and create your own customized quiz with the difficulty level of your choice. Try our custom quiz by clicking on the box below!

Why not test your memory with a bone labeling exercise? Below, you can see a labeled diagram showing the main bones of the body and an unlabeled diagram ready for you to fill in yourself.


Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the skeletal system in the galleries below. 


Key points about the skeletal system
Main bones of the human body

Axial skeleton: Frontal bone, maxilla, mandible, temporal bone, parietal bone, occipital bone, vertebral column, sacrum, coccyx, ribs, sternum

Appendicular skeleton:
 Clavicle, scapula, humerus, ulna, radius, carpal bones, metacarpals, phalanges of hand, ilium, ischium, pubis, femur, patella, tibia, fibula, tarsal bones, metatarsals, phalanges of foot
Types of bones Long, short, flat, irregular and sesamoid.
Functions of the skeletal system

Protection, support, movement (with involvement of the muscular system), storage of fat and minerals and blood cell formation.

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