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Bone Basics


An Inside Look at Bone
Young or Old?
Male or Female?
Human or Non-Human?

Vertebrates (animals with bones) share common origins. But we have all evolved in response to particular ways of life and environments, so human and animal bones differ in internal structure, density, and shape. For most animals, the differences are pronounced. A trained scientist can easily identify them.


Test your knowledge!

are these bones human?
Images courtesy of: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History


In 2007, these bones were discovered in rural West Virginia.  Law enforcement agents contacted Smithsonian scientists for help in identifying them.

Do you think these bones are human or non-human? 

Check your answer!

  • Very few animals have bones! Of all species discovered and described scientifically, only about 4 percent have bones. Vertebrates (named for their backbones) are overwhelmingly outnumbered by the other 96 percent — the boneless invertebrates.


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