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Look inside not-so-spooky skeletons

This article first appeared in the 10/25/19 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

Look inside not-so-spooky skeletons

Human Skeleton on Exhibit at the Museum of Osteology, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Photo by Sklmsta courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Look inside not-so- spooky skeletons

 

By Sara Thompson

Special to the Enterprise

 

 

Skeletons are a common sight this time of year as they are a popular Halloween decoration so make one’s yard a little spookier.  Although associated with death, a skeleton is essential for life of those that have them.  Without a skeleton, most vertebrates would not have any structure to move or to protect their organs.

 

Vertebrate skeletons are primarily made up of bone, with cartilage helping in the joints between bones.  Both are special types of connective tissues, that are both stiff and strong, but also light weight.  Bones are made up of hydroxyapatite, a mineral that is composed primarily of calcium, oxygen, phosphorus, and hydrogen, and chondroitin sulfate, which is a material made up of chains of alternating sugars.  Cartilage is made up of chondrocytes, which are a specialized cell that produces a large amount of collagen matrix for its structure.  Calcium helps with keeping both of these materials healthy and functional.

 

A skeleton’s main function is support for the body and movement.  Bones allow anchor points for muscles to help the organism stand and supports itself and move body parts.  After factoring in muscle and other tissues, a body can be fairly heavy, which having light weight, but strong bones are essential to keeping overall weight to a minimum.  Joints in the skeleton allow easier pivoting and overall movement to the large bodies of vertebrate animals.  Without bones, limbs would not function nearly as well, nor have the support to bear as much weight.

 

Skeletons also help with protecting vital organs.  Skulls house the brain, but it also protects it.  The skull also supports the structures responsible for our sight, hearing, speech, etc.  The spinal column not only a support structure, but it protects the spinal cord which is vital to internal communication to and from the brain.  The spine also helps support the rib cage, by allowing an anchor for ribs and the muscle surrounding it.  The rib cage also helps in protecting all the organs within it, such as the heart and lungs.  Mammals use the pelvic bones to help with growing and bearing live young.

 

Most skeletons follow a general structure.  Skull, spine, and ribs are in the same order and same general association with each other.  Organisms with limbs have similar shoulder and pelvic structures, as well as the many of the same bones in the limbs.  Every animal will have their own skeletal specialization, such as snakes have a longer spine and more ribs to help with their structure and movement.  Whales have fused the vertebrae in their necks to help with swimming in their marine habitats, as well as a modified pelvic region to accommodate a larger tail in use of locomotion while reducing the need for hind limbs.

 

Explorit has a variety of preserved animal and animal skeletons guests can look at during our school programs or our public hours (more information is at www.explorit.org).  Get even more up close and personal with skeletons and skulls during our Spooky Science Night on Saturday, October 26 from 5-9pm.  All ages welcome, cost is $7 for general admission, $6 for Explorit Members, children 2 and under free.  Receive $1 off admission if wearing a family appropriate costume.

 

 

 

Explorit's coming events:

 

 

  • Explorit’s Nature Bowl team is now enrolling for the school year.  This is an afterschool science team from students grades 3-6.  Call (530) 756-0191 to register.  The $25 fee covers weekly meetings and a t-shirt.

 

  • Become a member of Explorit.  For more information or to purchase or renew your membership visitwww.explorit.org/join/membership-levels or call Explorit at 530-756-0191.  Membership prices increase January 1, 2020.
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