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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe each region of the vertebral column and the number of bones in each region
  • Discuss the curves of the vertebral column and how these change after birth
  • Describe a typical vertebra and determine the distinguishing characteristics for vertebrae in each vertebral region and features of the sacrum and the coccyx
  • Define the structure of an intervertebral disc
  • Determine the location of the ligaments that provide support for the vertebral column

The vertebral column is also known as the spinal column or spine ( [link] ). It consists of a sequence of vertebrae (singular = vertebra), each of which is separated and united by an intervertebral disc    . Together, the vertebrae and intervertebral discs form the vertebral column. It is a flexible column that supports the head, neck, and body and allows for their movements. It also protects the spinal cord, which passes down the back through openings in the vertebrae.

Vertebral column

This image shows the structure of the vertebral column. The left panel shows the front view of the vertebral column and the right panel shows the side view of the vertebral column.
The adult vertebral column consists of 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebrae are divided into three regions: cervical C1–C7 vertebrae, thoracic T1–T12 vertebrae, and lumbar L1–L5 vertebrae. The vertebral column is curved, with two primary curvatures (thoracic and sacrococcygeal curves) and two secondary curvatures (cervical and lumbar curves).

Regions of the vertebral column

The vertebral column originally develops as a series of 33 vertebrae, but this number is eventually reduced to 24 vertebrae, plus the sacrum and coccyx. The vertebral column is subdivided into five regions, with the vertebrae in each area named for that region and numbered in descending order. In the neck, there are seven cervical vertebrae, each designated with the letter “C” followed by its number. Superiorly, the C1 vertebra articulates (forms a joint) with the occipital condyles of the skull. Inferiorly, C1 articulates with the C2 vertebra, and so on. Below these are the 12 thoracic vertebrae, designated T1–T12. The lower back contains the L1–L5 lumbar vertebrae. The single sacrum, which is also part of the pelvis, is formed by the fusion of five sacral vertebrae. Similarly, the coccyx, or tailbone, results from the fusion of four small coccygeal vertebrae. However, the sacral and coccygeal fusions do not start until age 20 and are not completed until middle age.

An interesting anatomical fact is that almost all mammals have seven cervical vertebrae, regardless of body size. This means that there are large variations in the size of cervical vertebrae, ranging from the very small cervical vertebrae of a shrew to the greatly elongated vertebrae in the neck of a giraffe. In a full-grown giraffe, each cervical vertebra is 11 inches tall.

Curvatures of the vertebral column

The adult vertebral column does not form a straight line, but instead has four curvatures along its length (see [link] ). These curves increase the vertebral column’s strength, flexibility, and ability to absorb shock. When the load on the spine is increased, by carrying a heavy backpack for example, the curvatures increase in depth (become more curved) to accommodate the extra weight. They then spring back when the weight is removed. The four adult curvatures are classified as either primary or secondary curvatures. Primary curves are retained from the original fetal curvature, while secondary curvatures develop after birth.

Questions & Answers

why arteries deeper than veins?!
Cismaan Reply
arteries colour of blood is deeper than that of vein because its blood contains oxygen which is adhered to haemoglobin(a protein which gives the blood its red color) , while vein contains deoxygenated blood(blood without oxygen)
olusoga
As we know, vein carries used blood to the heart. when we say used blood, we mean to say, blood that its content(oxygen and other nutrients) has been used up.
olusoga
Arteries are deeper b'cuz they need to be protected.......If they are ruptured they cannot form clot and repair themselves.... Moreover, the pressure of blood is too high for the artery to form the clot and repair itself....... Hence, Arteries are deeper than veins........
AMEL
Than u all. Special thanks too AMEL JEELANI.
Cismaan
You're welcome......
AMEL
Thanks all
describe the location of the macula densa and explain its role in the regulation of renin secretion and in tubuglomerular feedback
mwamba Reply
its located near the vascular pole of the glomurelus also regulate blood pressure and the filtration rate of glomurelus
adam
Describe two early induced responses and what pathogens they affect
olivia Reply
what are pathogens
Priscilla
pathogens are disease-causing agents/organisms
olusoga
pathogen are the causative of disease
Marco
thank you sister
Priscilla
mmmmm
Asad
kkkjjjjjjjhgghkkgkgkkjkjkjgjkhjigjkh
Asad
What are organelles
RAPHERA Reply
The are little organs found in cells of living things... Eg gogi apparatus
Lombe
what is anatomy
Linda Reply
is the study of the structures of the body and how they relates to each other
Agyemang
Anatomy is the study of the structures of body parts and how they relates to each other
Agyemang
is the study of the structure of the body and how they relates to each other
NAOMI
what are the difference between Pacinian corpuscle and cutaneous vascular plexus?
thivya Reply
what are membranous epithelial tissues
Naa Reply
they are the lining and covering epithelial tissues which cover body surfaces and line cavities... they're grouped into simple and stratified according to the number of layers and squamous, cuboidal and columnar according to their shape
Ophelia
what is an acina
Nuella
acina is known to be the basic functional unit of the lungs .(singular:- acinus) this is where the alveoli(the gaseous exchange site) is found...
Fatukasi
what happens to the unfertilized egg
Wuraola
the study of tissues is called
Scandy Reply
histology
Sirius
microscopic or histology anatomy
Shan
What specific types of biological macromolecules do living things require and why?
Marieland Reply
what is partial pressure?
Tariq Reply
it is the pressure exerted by mixture of gases...
Fatukasi
What is the Important of studying anatomy and philosophy
Michael Reply
because to know the mechanisms of our body
Tariq
to discover the regional structural of human body based on physically and also biochemically.
thivya
how many region do we have in human body
nsofor Reply
head thorax abdomen and many kind of...
Shan
what is principal ponatine nucleas
Tariq
Human body can be divided into different regions on the basis of: 1. Systems: e.g. digestive system, respiratory system, excretory system etc.. 2. Parts: e.g. head, thorax, neck, upper limbs, lower limbs etc..
AMEL
we have 9 region in d human body
ZAINAB
what is systematic anatomy?
nsofor Reply
it is the anatomy or study of a certain body system for example the digestive system. or respiratory system.
Summer
It is a group of structure that work together to perform a unique function..
RAPHERA
describe the division of anatomy and physiology
Vissa Reply
the what and the how
Josh
anatomy is the structure. physiology is the function.
Gavin
what is homeostasis?
nsofor
the balance if everything in your body
Kare
is the tendency of the body to maintain the internal environment
Flora
It is the ability of systems and living organisms to adjust its internal environment
RAPHERA
how does a saggital plane look like and a frontal plane
susan Reply
saggital plane divides left and right.. frontal plane divides front and back.. I'm trying to upload a picture but idk how.
Pipiena
tnx sis
Angella
The sagittal plane is a vertical plane that divides the body into left and right anteriorly whilst the frontal plane divides the body into the posterior(back) and anterior(front) parts. They're all perpendicular to the transverse plane.
Sirius

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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