After completing this section, you should know:
- the functions of the skeleton
- the basic structure of a vertebrae and the regions of the vertebral column
- the general structure of the skull
- the difference between ‘true ribs’ and ‘floating ribs
- the main bones of the fore and hind limbs, and their girdles and be able to identify them in a live cat, dog, or rabbit
Fish, frogs, reptiles, birds and mammals are called vertebrates, a name that comes from the bony column of vertebrae (the spine) that supports the body and head. The rest of the skeleton of all these animals (except the fish) also has the same basic design with a skull that houses and protects the brain and sense organs and ribs that protect the heart and lungs and, in mammals, make breathing possible. Each of the four limbs is made to the same basic pattern. It is joined to the spine by means of a flat, broad bone called a girdle and consists of one long upper bone, two long lower bones, several smaller bones in the wrist or ankle and five digits (see diagrams 6.1 18,19 and 20).
Diagram 6.1 - The mammalian skeleton