What is the Difference Between the Axial & Appendicular Skeleton?

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  • 0:03 Axial vs. Appendicular…
  • 0:35 Axial Skeleton
  • 3:14 Appendicular Skeleton
  • 4:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson describes, in detail, the differences between the axial and appendicular skeletons of the human body. You'll learn which bones and how many are in each of these major skeletal categories.

Axial vs. Appendicular Skeleton

If you could name the most important regions of the body, what would they be? In all likelihood, you answered something like the head, neck, chest, and abdomen. This central part of your body contains the axial skeleton, or the bones lying along a central axis, or midline, of your body. The rest of your bones are part of the appendicular skeleton, or the one mainly composed of the bones in your appendages, or limbs.

Let's learn about which bones belong to what part of your skeleton.

Axial Skeleton

The axial skeleton contains 80 bones. There are 22 bones in the skull, 6 auditory ossicles, 26 vertebra, 24 ribs, a sternum, and a hyoid bone. Let's go over all of these in a bit more detail.

Skull Bones in Detail

However, before we get into the skull bones, a little note is in order in case you get confused about terminology when cross-referencing things. The word skull is technically the bony skeleton of the head, although sometimes the term is limited to mean the cranium. But what's a cranium?

Technically, the cranium refers to the bones of the head without the mandible, which is the lower jaw. Loosely, however, the word cranium is sometimes used to refer to the bones surrounding the brain alone. If we're going to be more technically precise, however, then the cranium is actually split into the neurocranium, which is what holds the brain, and the viscerocranium, which is the facial skeleton.

Sometimes, the six auditory ossicles, or the small middle ear bones, and the hyoid bone are included as part of the skull, although this isn't usually considered to be the case. Nevertheless, here's a cool fact: one of the auditory ossicles, known as the stapes, is the shortest bone in your body, being about 0.11 inches long.

Okay, with that out of the way and without further delay, the 8 bones of the neurocranium are the:

  • Sphenoid
  • Ethmoid
  • Frontal, or the bone that comprises your forehead
  • Occipital
  • Temporal, of which there are two
  • Parietal, of which there are two as well

The 14 bones of the face include the:

  • Vomer
  • Mandible, or lower jaw
  • Maxilla, which are paired, meaning there are two of them that are almost mirror images of each other, and which make up the upper part of your jaw
  • Zygomatic, which are also paired bone and are the bones that give you your cheekbones
  • Lacrimal, which are paired
  • Nasal, which are paired
  • Palatine, which are paired as well
  • Inferior nasal conchae, which are paired too

Spinal Column & Ribcage Details

Let's now talk about the spinal column and rib cage. Your spinal column consists of 26 bone, or 33 if you count the fused sections, called vertebrae.

The 26 spinal column bones include:

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