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6.09: Bird Skeletons

Although the skeleton of birds is made up of the same bones as that of mammals, many are highly adapted for flight. The most noticeable difference is that the bones of the forelimbs are elongated to act as wings. The large flight muscles make up as much as 1/5th of the body weight and are attached to an extension of the sternum called the keel. The vertebrae of the lower back are fused to provide the rigidity needed to produce flying movements. There are also many adaptations to reduce the weight of the skeleton. For instance birds have a beak rather than teeth and many of the bones are hollow (see diagram 6.11).

Anatomy and physiology of animals Birds skeleton.jpg

Diagram 6.11 - A bird’s skeleton


  • Ruth Lawson (Otago Polytechnic; Dunedin, New Zealand)