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Directional Terminology for Anatomy

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  • 0:02 Directional Terminology
  • 0:42 Ventral and Dorsal
  • 1:33 Caudal, Cranial,…
  • 2:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson seeks to cover several different terms used in directional terminology: ventral, dorsal, cranial, caudal, cephalic, and rostral. These anatomical terms are defined from a bipedal perspective.

Directional Terminology

Up, down, north, south, backwards, forwards, behind, in front, and so many more. There are a lot of terms that signify direction, and thus you'll find many lessons here that cover directional terms specific to anatomy. Today we'll be going over ventral, dorsal, cranial, caudal, cephalic, and rostral.

We'll define and explain them more from a bipedal perspective than that of a quadruped, since some of these terms are seen slightly differently in veterinary medicine than in human medicine. Note that a biped is simply an animal that stands on two feet, that is to say, a person.

Ventral and Dorsal

This lesson will be easier to understand if you stand in front of a mirror and actually look at what we're describing.

First, turn and face the mirror. Look at the belly side of your body, its frontward, or anterior, side. A term for pertaining to, directed towards, or situated on the anterior surface of the body is ventral. This term comes from venter, the Latin for belly or abdomen.

Now if you turn around and have your back facing the mirror, as you turn your head, you'll see your dorsum, or back. Dorsal is a term that refers to the back of the body or back of a body part, or positioned more towards the back than some other object of reference.

This term comes from dorso-, which means back, and -al, which means pertaining to. Dorsal is easy to remember if you imagine a dorsal fin, which is located on the back of a marine animal.

Caudal, Cranial, Cephalic, & Rostral

But don't get ventral confused with caudal, which means situated towards the lower part of the body. This word comes from caud-, which means tail. So, if you look at where your tailbone is, you'll recognize it's in the lower part of your body.

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