Spooky Nature Facts: Skeletons and Bones

Spooky Nature Facts: Skeletons and Bones

What would the Halloween season be without stories of skeletons and bones? So without further ado, here are some fun (and spooky) facts about them.

Fun Facts about Animal Bones

  • Rodents crave gnawing on bones, which mammalogists believe serves the dual purposes of keeping their ever growing incisors in check, and providing vital dietary minerals. The practice is an ancient one – paleontologists recently discovered dinosaur bones with the telltale gnaw-marks from our earliest mammal ancestors.

    squirrel

    Squirrel gnawing on a cattle skull

• Mammals have spiral shaped bones in their noses called nasal conchae – which serve to moisten and warm the inhaled air and allow for better sense of smell.

nasal-conchae

Deer skull showing the nasal conchae

• Bones of dead animals serve an important function in nature, they are decomposed by bacteria, many mammals gnaw on them for vital minerals, and birds eat them to get calcium for making their egg shells.

sea-lion-forelimb

Sealion Forelimb by Christine Elder

• Paleontologists who study animal fossils can sometimes determine a species from as little as just one bone!
• Extinct animals can give clues to their lifestyle and habitat by the size and shape of their bones – especially teeth and limbs.

raccoon

A transparent raccoon! By Christine Elder

• Owls regurgitate pellets containing the entire skeletons of the animals they’ve consumed.

owl-scratchboard

Barn Owl with mouse by Christine Elder

These skeletons are so perfectly preserved and complete, that middle school teachers have students dissect them and rearticulate the skeletons to study anatomy.owl-pellet
(Photo by BastienM – Own work, Public Domain )

 

Fun Facts about Human Bones

  • Humans and giraffes have the same number of bones in their necks.
vertebrae

Human Vertebrae

(By Henry Vandyke Carter – Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body. Bartleby.com: Gray’s Anatomy, Plate 84, Public Domain, )

• Forensic scientists can use human remains from crime scenes to determine the time, cause, and often even the location of death.

• Ancient remains can reveal much about past cultures including occupations and daily activities, all based on telltale wear and tear of the bones.
skeleton

 

  • Many of our bones join together as we grow, actually reducing the number of bones we have by adulthood. The adult skeleton consists of 206 bones; that’s 94 fewer bones than we are born with!
  • What does gardening have to do with skeletons? The exercise that gardening provides, along with much needed Vitamin D from the sun, make gardening one of the best ways to maintain healthy bones!
  • Bones are so much more than the framework for our bodies. Bones are organs that have the ability to change based on the impacts they sustain. They produce red blood cells, store minerals and nutrients, lipids that store energy, and provide structure for muscle attachment.
  • The skeletal system consists of more than just bones. It includes cartilage, membranes, nervous, epithelial, and connective tissue.
  • The hyoid bone is the only bone in the human body that isn’t connected to another. It’s located in the throat and works with the larynx and tongue to produce vocalization. Because Neanderthals are the only other species to have hyoids, scientists believe they had complex speech patterns.

hyoid

(By Henry Vandyke Carter – Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body Bartleby.com: Gray’s Anatomy, Plate 186, Public Domain, )

Drawing Bones in Pastel Lesson Plan

I love to draw and paint bones. It all started in a college mammalogy class when I used the process of sketching all the bones, skulls and skeletons we were expected to know for our exam. And that is precisely when I realized how valuable drawing can be in the learning process. A while back, I taught a class in painting a bone in a Georgia O’Keeffe style using pastels. Visit this page to watch the lesson plan and video demo on drawing a bone in a Georgia O’Keeffe style.

georgia

Fascinating BBC Series on Bones: The Origins of Us

I love this series; The Origins of Us, with host Dr. Alice Roberts; a British anatomist, anthropologist and Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham. This segment of a three-part series describes our skeletal system and its similarity to our primate relatives in a fascinating manner.

alice