What is a Skull? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

In this lesson, you'll not only learn what a skull is but also find some fun facts about human and animal skulls, including how they can provide clues to the living things that once inhabited them.

What is a Skull?

What is the part of your body that rests atop your shoulders? Your head, of course! But, what is underneath the skin on your head? Well, there's a brain, but that's not all. Surrounding your brain is the part of your skeleton known as your skull. Your skull is made of bone and cartilage, or firm tissue; its job is to protect your brain.

Having a brain without a skull would be like carrying around your iPhone without a case; if you dropped your phone, it would most likely crack. And if you didn't have a skull and hit your head, your brain would most likely get damaged.

What Are the Parts of a Skull?

Humans and animals have several bones that make up their skulls. Some of the bones surround the brain, and some of the bones are facial bones. Facial bones are bones like the jaw and cheekbones. All of these bones are connected by joints known as sutures.

The skull also has holes that allow your nerves and blood vessels to connect to other body parts; for example, the two holes where your eyes are located. This is because the optic nerve needs to be able to go through the skull to connect to your eyeballs.

Can you count how many bones are in this dinosaur skull?
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What Do Human Skulls Tell Us?

Did you know that you can tell what race someone was by looking at his or her skull? While all human skulls have 22 bones, they might be different shapes and sizes, depending on a person's race. You can also tell whether someone was a boy or girl based on what the skull looks like. Out of the 22 bones in a human skull, 14 of them are facial bones, and eight are cranial bones, or the parts of the skull that protect your brain.

Scientists determined that this is the skull of a Caucasian person.
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What Do Animal Skulls Tell Us?

If a living thing is a vertebrate, meaning that it has a backbone, it has a skull. Animals without backbones, like slugs, do not have skulls. Animal skulls can look very different from one another. Sometimes, you can identify an animal based on its skull, like a bird, dinosaur or bull.

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