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Vertebral column

The vertebral column, also known as the backbone, spine, or spinal column, is a crucial part of the axial skeleton in vertebrates. It replaces the […]

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The vertebral column, also known as the backbone, spine, or spinal column, is a crucial part of the axial skeleton in vertebrates. It replaces the notochord found in chordates with a segmented series of vertebrae, which are mineralized bones or cartilages, separated by intervertebral discs. This structure encloses and protects the spinal cord within the spinal canal.

Vertebrates, including humans, have around 50,000 species with various vertebral columns. The human vertebral column, typical of mammals, reptiles, and birds, consists of 33 vertebrae, including cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal regions. These vertebrae are divided into articulating and fused vertebrae, with variations existing in the number and structure amongst individuals and species.

The vertebral column is supported by ligaments and develops a characteristic segmented pattern during embryogenesis. It plays a key role in protecting the spinal cord, supporting the body, and allowing various movements. Clinical conditions affecting the vertebral column include diseases like kyphosis, scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis, spina bifida, and injuries that can lead to significant changes in function and mobility.

In other animals, the structure of vertebrae is largely similar but can vary in shape and number of regions, such as cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, and caudal vertebrae. These variations are adapted to the specific lifestyles and movements of the species. For example, the number of cervical vertebrae is constant in most mammals but varies in other animals, including birds and reptiles. Fish and amphibians have different vertebral structures adapted to their aquatic environments.

Overall, the vertebral column is a complex and vital structure that supports vertebrate life, enabling movement, protection for the spinal cord, and structural support for the body.

Vertebral column (Wikipedia)

The vertebral column, also known as the backbone, spine, or spinal column, is the core part of the axial skeleton in vertebrate animals. The vertebral column is the defining characteristic of vertebrate endoskeleton in which the notochord (a flexible collagen-wrapped glycoprotein rod) found in all chordates has been replaced by a segmented series of mineralized irregular bones (or sometimes, cartilages) called vertebrae, separated by fibrocartilaginous intervertebral discs (the center of which is a notochord remnant). The dorsal portion of the vertebral column houses the spinal canal, a cavity formed by alignment of the neural arches that encloses and protects the spinal cord.

Vertebral column
The human vertebral column and its regions
Vertebral column of a goat
Latincolumna vertebralis
Anatomical terminology

There are around 50,000 species of animals that have a vertebral column. The human vertebral column is one of the most-studied examples, as the general structure of human vertebrae is fairly typical (homologous) of that found in other mammals, reptiles and birds. The shape of the vertebral body does, however, vary somewhat between different groups of living species.

Individual vertebrae are named according to their corresponding body region (neck, thorax, abdomen, pelvis or tail). In clinical medicine, features on vertebrae (particularly the spinous process) can be used as surface landmarks to guide medical procedures such as lumbar punctures and spinal anesthesia. There are also many different spinal diseases in humans that can affect both the bony vertebrae and the intervertebral discs, with kyphosis/scoliosis, ankylosing spondylitis, degenerative discs and spina bifida being recognizable examples.

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