Anatomy (Greek anatomē, "dissection") is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts.[1] Anatomy is a branch of natural science which deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its beginnings in prehistoric times.[2] Anatomy is inherently tied to developmental biology, embryology, comparative anatomy, evolutionary biology, and phylogeny,[3] as these are the processes by which anatomy is generated over immediate (embryology) and long (evolution) timescales. Anatomy and physiology, which study (respectively) the structure and function of organisms and their parts, make a natural pair of related disciplines, and they are often studied together. Human anatomy is one of the essential basic sciences that are applied in medicine.[4]

The discipline of anatomy is divided into macroscopic and microscopic anatomy. Macroscopic anatomy, or gross anatomy, is the examination of an animal's body parts using unaided eyesight. Gross anatomy also includes the branch of superficial anatomy. Microscopic anatomy involves the use of optical instruments in the study of the tissues of various structures, known as histology, and also in the study of cells.

The history of anatomy is characterized by a progressive understanding of the functions of the organs and structures of the human body. Methods have also improved dramatically, advancing from the examination of animals by dissection of carcasses and cadavers (corpses) to 20th century medical imaging techniques including X-ray, ultrasound, and magnetic resonance imaging.

One of the large, detailed illustrations in Andreas Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica 16th century, marking the rebirth of anatomy


An écorché figure (life-size), lying prone on a table Wellcome L0020561
A dissected body, lying prone on a table, by Charles Landseer

Derived from the Greek ἀνατομή anatomē "dissection" (from ἀνατέμνω anatémnō "I cut up, cut open" from ἀνά aná "up", and τέμνω témnō "I cut"),[5] anatomy is the scientific study of the structure of organisms including their systems, organs and tissues. It includes the appearance and position of the various parts, the materials from which they are composed, their locations and their relationships with other parts. Anatomy is quite distinct from physiology and biochemistry, which deal respectively with the functions of those parts and the chemical processes involved. For example, an anatomist is concerned with the shape, size, position, structure, blood supply and innervation of an organ such as the liver; while a physiologist is interested in the production of bile, the role of the liver in nutrition and the regulation of bodily functions.[6]

The discipline of anatomy can be subdivided into a number of branches including gross or macroscopic anatomy and microscopic anatomy.[7] Gross anatomy is the study of structures large enough to be seen with the naked eye, and also includes superficial anatomy or surface anatomy, the study by sight of the external body features. Microscopic anatomy is the study of structures on a microscopic scale, along with histology (the study of tissues), and embryology (the study of an organism in its immature condition).[3]

Anatomy can be studied using both invasive and non-invasive methods with the goal of obtaining information about the structure and organization of organs and systems.[3] Methods used include dissection, in which a body is opened and its organs studied, and endoscopy, in which a video camera-equipped instrument is inserted through a small incision in the body wall and used to explore the internal organs and other structures. Angiography using X-rays or magnetic resonance angiography are methods to visualize blood vessels.[8][9][10][11]

The term "anatomy" is commonly taken to refer to human anatomy. However, substantially the same structures and tissues are found throughout the rest of the animal kingdom and the term also includes the anatomy of other animals. The term zootomy is also sometimes used to specifically refer to non-human animals. The structure and tissues of plants are of a dissimilar nature and they are studied in plant anatomy.[6]

Animal tissues

Anima cell notext
Stylized cutaway diagram of an animal cell (with flagella)

The kingdom Animalia contains multicellular organisms that are heterotrophic and motile (although some have secondarily adopted a sessile lifestyle). Most animals have bodies differentiated into separate tissues and these animals are also known as eumetazoans. They have an internal digestive chamber, with one or two openings; the gametes are produced in multicellular sex organs, and the zygotes include a blastula stage in their embryonic development. Metazoans do not include the sponges, which have undifferentiated cells.[12]

Unlike plant cells, animal cells have neither a cell wall nor chloroplasts. Vacuoles, when present, are more in number and much smaller than those in the plant cell. The body tissues are composed of numerous types of cell, including those found in muscles, nerves and skin. Each typically has a cell membrane formed of phospholipids, cytoplasm and a nucleus. All of the different cells of an animal are derived from the embryonic germ layers. Those simpler invertebrates which are formed from two germ layers of ectoderm and endoderm are called diploblastic and the more developed animals whose structures and organs are formed from three germ layers are called triploblastic.[13] All of a triploblastic animal's tissues and organs are derived from the three germ layers of the embryo, the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm.

Animal tissues can be grouped into four basic types: connective, epithelial, muscle and nervous tissue.

Cartilage polarised
Hyaline cartilage at high magnification (H&E stain)

Connective tissue

Connective tissues are fibrous and made up of cells scattered among inorganic material called the extracellular matrix. Connective tissue gives shape to organs and holds them in place. The main types are loose connective tissue, adipose tissue, fibrous connective tissue, cartilage and bone. The extracellular matrix contains proteins, the chief and most abundant of which is collagen. Collagen plays a major part in organizing and maintaining tissues. The matrix can be modified to form a skeleton to support or protect the body. An exoskeleton is a thickened, rigid cuticle which is stiffened by mineralization, as in crustaceans or by the cross-linking of its proteins as in insects. An endoskeleton is internal and present in all developed animals, as well as in many of those less developed.[13]


Normal gastric mucosa low mag
Gastric mucosa at low magnification (H&E stain)

Epithelial tissue is composed of closely packed cells, bound to each other by cell adhesion molecules, with little intercellular space. Epithelial cells can be squamous (flat), cuboidal or columnar and rest on a basal lamina, the upper layer of the basement membrane,[14] the lower layer is the reticular lamina lying next to the connective tissue in the extracellular matrix secreted by the epithelial cells.[15] There are many different types of epithelium, modified to suit a particular function. In the respiratory tract there is a type of ciliated epithelial lining; in the small intestine there are microvilli on the epithelial lining and in the large intestine there are intestinal villi. Skin consists of an outer layer of keratinized stratified squamous epithelium that covers the exterior of the vertebrate body. Keratinocytes make up to 95% of the cells in the skin.[16] The epithelial cells on the external surface of the body typically secrete an extracellular matrix in the form of a cuticle. In simple animals this may just be a coat of glycoproteins.[13] In more advanced animals, many glands are formed of epithelial cells.[17]

Muscle tissue

Skeletal muscle - cross section, nerve bundle
Cross section through skeletal muscle and a small nerve at high magnification (H&E stain)

Muscle cells (myocytes) form the active contractile tissue of the body. Muscle tissue functions to produce force and cause motion, either locomotion or movement within internal organs. Muscle is formed of contractile filaments and is separated into three main types; smooth muscle, skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle. Smooth muscle has no striations when examined microscopically. It contracts slowly but maintains contractibility over a wide range of stretch lengths. It is found in such organs as sea anemone tentacles and the body wall of sea cucumbers. Skeletal muscle contracts rapidly but has a limited range of extension. It is found in the movement of appendages and jaws. Obliquely striated muscle is intermediate between the other two. The filaments are staggered and this is the type of muscle found in earthworms that can extend slowly or make rapid contractions.[18] In higher animals striated muscles occur in bundles attached to bone to provide movement and are often arranged in antagonistic sets. Smooth muscle is found in the walls of the uterus, bladder, intestines, stomach, oesophagus, respiratory airways, and blood vessels. Cardiac muscle is found only in the heart, allowing it to contract and pump blood round the body.

Nervous tissue

Nervous tissue is composed of many nerve cells known as neurons which transmit information. In some slow-moving radially symmetrical marine animals such as ctenophores and cnidarians (including sea anemones and jellyfish), the nerves form a nerve net, but in most animals they are organized longitudinally into bundles. In simple animals, receptor neurons in the body wall cause a local reaction to a stimulus. In more complex animals, specialized receptor cells such as chemoreceptors and photoreceptors are found in groups and send messages along neural networks to other parts of the organism. Neurons can be connected together in ganglia.[19] In higher animals, specialized receptors are the basis of sense organs and there is a central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) and a peripheral nervous system. The latter consists of sensory nerves that transmit information from sense organs and motor nerves that influence target organs.[20][21] The peripheral nervous system is divided into the somatic nervous system which conveys sensation and controls voluntary muscle, and the autonomic nervous system which involuntarily controls smooth muscle, certain glands and internal organs, including the stomach.[22]

Vertebrate anatomy

Mouse skull

All vertebrates have a similar basic body plan and at some point in their lives, mostly in the embryonic stage, share the major chordate characteristics; a stiffening rod, the notochord; a dorsal hollow tube of nervous material, the neural tube; pharyngeal arches; and a tail posterior to the anus. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebral column and is above the notochord and the gastrointestinal tract is below it.[23] Nervous tissue is derived from the ectoderm, connective tissues are derived from mesoderm, and gut is derived from the endoderm. At the posterior end is a tail which continues the spinal cord and vertebrae but not the gut. The mouth is found at the anterior end of the animal, and the anus at the base of the tail.[24] The defining characteristic of a vertebrate is the vertebral column, formed in the development of the segmented series of vertebrae. In most vertebrates the notochord becomes the nucleus pulposus of the intervertebral discs. However, a few vertebrates, such as the sturgeon and the coelacanth retain the notochord into adulthood.[25] Jawed vertebrates are typified by paired appendages, fins or legs, which may be secondarily lost. The limbs of vertebrates are considered to be homologous because the same underlying skeletal structure was inherited from their last common ancestor. This is one of the arguments put forward by Charles Darwin to support his theory of evolution.[26]

Fish anatomy

Internal anatomy of a fish (cutaway diagram)
Cutaway diagram showing various organs of a fish

The body of a fish is divided into a head, trunk and tail, although the divisions between the three are not always externally visible. The skeleton, which forms the support structure inside the fish, is either made of cartilage, in cartilaginous fish, or bone in bony fish. The main skeletal element is the vertebral column, composed of articulating vertebrae which are lightweight yet strong. The ribs attach to the spine and there are no limbs or limb girdles. The main external features of the fish, the fins, are composed of either bony or soft spines called rays, which with the exception of the caudal fins, have no direct connection with the spine. They are supported by the muscles which compose the main part of the trunk.[27] The heart has two chambers and pumps the blood through the respiratory surfaces of the gills and on round the body in a single circulatory loop.[28] The eyes are adapted for seeing underwater and have only local vision. There is an inner ear but no external or middle ear. Low frequency vibrations are detected by the lateral line system of sense organs that run along the length of the sides of fish, and these respond to nearby movements and to changes in water pressure.[27]

Sharks and rays are basal fish with numerous primitive anatomical features similar to those of ancient fish, including skeletons composed of cartilage. Their bodies tend to be dorso-ventrally flattened, they usually have five pairs of gill slits and a large mouth set on the underside of the head. The dermis is covered with separate dermal placoid scales. They have a cloaca into which the urinary and genital passages open, but not a swim bladder. Cartilaginous fish produce a small number of large, yolky eggs. Some species are ovoviviparous and the young develop internally but others are oviparous and the larvae develop externally in egg cases.[29]

The bony fish lineage shows more derived anatomical traits, often with major evolutionary changes from the features of ancient fish. They have a bony skeleton, are generally laterally flattened, have five pairs of gills protected by an operculum, and a mouth at or near the tip of the snout. The dermis is covered with overlapping scales. Bony fish have a swim bladder which helps them maintain a constant depth in the water column, but not a cloaca. They mostly spawn a large number of small eggs with little yolk which they broadcast into the water column.[29]

Amphibian anatomy

Ceratophrys cornuta skeleton front
Skeleton of Surinam horned frog (Ceratophrys cornuta)
Frog anatomy tags
Plastic model of a frog

Amphibians are a class of animals comprising frogs, salamanders and caecilians. They are tetrapods, but the caecilians and a few species of salamander have either no limbs or their limbs are much reduced in size. Their main bones are hollow and lightweight and are fully ossified and the vertebrae interlock with each other and have articular processes. Their ribs are usually short and may be fused to the vertebrae. Their skulls are mostly broad and short, and are often incompletely ossified. Their skin contains little keratin and lacks scales, but contains many mucous glands and in some species, poison glands. The hearts of amphibians have three chambers, two atria and one ventricle. They have a urinary bladder and nitrogenous waste products are excreted primarily as urea. Amphibians breathe by means of buccal pumping, a pump action in which air is first drawn into the buccopharyngeal region through the nostrils. These are then closed and the air is forced into the lungs by contraction of the throat.[30] They supplement this with gas exchange through the skin which needs to be kept moist.[31]

In frogs the pelvic girdle is robust and the hind legs are much longer and stronger than the forelimbs. The feet have four or five digits and the toes are often webbed for swimming or have suction pads for climbing. Frogs have large eyes and no tail. Salamanders resemble lizards in appearance; their short legs project sideways, the belly is close to or in contact with the ground and they have a long tail. Caecilians superficially resemble earthworms and are limbless. They burrow by means of zones of muscle contractions which move along the body and they swim by undulating their body from side to side.[32]

Reptile anatomy

Reptiles are a class of animals comprising turtles, tuataras, lizards, snakes and crocodiles. They are tetrapods, but the snakes and a few species of lizard either have no limbs or their limbs are much reduced in size. Their bones are better ossified and their skeletons stronger than those of amphibians. The teeth are conical and mostly uniform in size. The surface cells of the epidermis are modified into horny scales which create a waterproof layer. Reptiles are unable to use their skin for respiration as do amphibians and have a more efficient respiratory system drawing air into their lungs by expanding their chest walls. The heart resembles that of the amphibian but there is a septum which more completely separates the oxygenated and deoxygenated bloodstreams. The reproductive system has evolved for internal fertilization, with a copulatory organ present in most species. The eggs are surrounded by amniotic membranes which prevents them from drying out and are laid on land, or develop internally in some species. The bladder is small as nitrogenous waste is excreted as uric acid.[33]

Turtles are notable for their protective shells. They have an inflexible trunk encased in a horny carapace above and a plastron below. These are formed from bony plates embedded in the dermis which are overlain by horny ones and are partially fused with the ribs and spine. The neck is long and flexible and the head and the legs can be drawn back inside the shell. Turtles are vegetarians and the typical reptile teeth have been replaced by sharp, horny plates. In aquatic species, the front legs are modified into flippers.[34]

Tuataras superficially resemble lizards but the lineages diverged in the Triassic period. There is one living species, Sphenodon punctatus. The skull has two openings (fenestrae) on either side and the jaw is rigidly attached to the skull. There is one row of teeth in the lower jaw and this fits between the two rows in the upper jaw when the animal chews. The teeth are merely projections of bony material from the jaw and eventually wear down. The brain and heart are more primitive than those of other reptiles, and the lungs have a single chamber and lack bronchi. The tuatara has a well-developed parietal eye on its forehead.[34]

Lizards have skulls with only one fenestra on each side, the lower bar of bone below the second fenestra having been lost. This results in the jaws being less rigidly attached which allows the mouth to open wider. Lizards are mostly quadrupeds, with the trunk held off the ground by short, sideways-facing legs, but a few species have no limbs and resemble snakes. Lizards have moveable eyelids, eardrums are present and some species have a central parietal eye.[34]

Snakes are closely related to lizards, having branched off from a common ancestral lineage during the Cretaceous period, and they share many of the same features. The skeleton consists of a skull, a hyoid bone, spine and ribs though a few species retain a vestige of the pelvis and rear limbs in the form of pelvic spurs. The bar under the second fenestra has also been lost and the jaws have extreme flexibility allowing the snake to swallow its prey whole. Snakes lack moveable eyelids, the eyes being covered by transparent "spectacle" scales. They do not have eardrums but can detect ground vibrations through the bones of their skull. Their forked tongues are used as organs of taste and smell and some species have sensory pits on their heads enabling them to locate warm-blooded prey.[35]

Crocodilians are large, low-slung aquatic reptiles with long snouts and large numbers of teeth. The head and trunk are dorso-ventrally flattened and the tail is laterally compressed. It undulates from side to side to force the animal through the water when swimming. The tough keratinized scales provide body armour and some are fused to the skull. The nostrils, eyes and ears are elevated above the top of the flat head enabling them to remain above the surface of the water when the animal is floating. Valves seal the nostrils and ears when it is submerged. Unlike other reptiles, crocodilians have hearts with four chambers allowing complete separation of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.[36]

Bird anatomy

Duerer wing of a blue roller
Part of a wing. Albrecht Dürer, c. 1500–1512

Birds are tetrapods but though their hind limbs are used for walking or hopping, their front limbs are wings covered with feathers and adapted for flight. Birds are endothermic, have a high metabolic rate, a light skeletal system and powerful muscles. The long bones are thin, hollow and very light. Air sac extensions from the lungs occupy the centre of some bones. The sternum is wide and usually has a keel and the caudal vertebrae are fused. There are no teeth and the narrow jaws are adapted into a horn-covered beak. The eyes are relatively large, particularly in nocturnal species such as owls. They face forwards in predators and sideways in ducks.[37]

The feathers are outgrowths of the epidermis and are found in localized bands from where they fan out over the skin. Large flight feathers are found on the wings and tail, contour feathers cover the bird's surface and fine down occurs on young birds and under the contour feathers of water birds. The only cutaneous gland is the single uropygial gland near the base of the tail. This produces an oily secretion that waterproofs the feathers when the bird preens. There are scales on the legs, feet and claws on the tips of the toes.[37]

Mammal anatomy

Mammals are a diverse class of animals, mostly terrestrial but some are aquatic and others have evolved flapping or gliding flight. They mostly have four limbs but some aquatic mammals have no limbs or limbs modified into fins and the forelimbs of bats are modified into wings. The legs of most mammals are situated below the trunk, which is held well clear of the ground. The bones of mammals are well ossified and their teeth, which are usually differentiated, are coated in a layer of prismatic enamel. The teeth are shed once (milk teeth) during the animal's lifetime or not at all, as is the case in cetaceans. Mammals have three bones in the middle ear and a cochlea in the inner ear. They are clothed in hair and their skin contains glands which secrete sweat. Some of these glands are specialized as mammary glands, producing milk to feed the young. Mammals breathe with lungs and have a muscular diaphragm separating the thorax from the abdomen which helps them draw air into the lungs. The mammalian heart has four chambers and oxygenated and deoxygenated blood are kept entirely separate. Nitrogenous waste is excreted primarily as urea.[38]

Mammals are amniotes, and most are viviparous, giving birth to live young. The exception to this are the egg-laying monotremes, the platypus and the echidnas of Australia. Most other mammals have a placenta through which the developing foetus obtains nourishment, but in marsupials, the foetal stage is very short and the immature young is born and finds its way to its mother's pouch where it latches on to a nipple and completes its development.[38]

Human anatomy

Parasagittal MRI of human head in patient with benign familial macrocephaly prior to brain injury (ANIMATED)
Modern anatomic technique showing sagittal sections of the head as seen by a MRI scan
Violin Scroll (2769099541)
In the human, the development of skilled hand movements and increased brain size is likely to have evolved simultaneously.[39]

Humans have the overall body plan of a mammal. Humans have a head, neck, trunk (which includes the thorax and abdomen), two arms and hands, and two legs and feet.

Generally, students of certain biological sciences, paramedics, prosthetists and orthotists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, nurses, podiatrists, and medical students learn gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy from anatomical models, skeletons, textbooks, diagrams, photographs, lectures and tutorials, and in addition, medical students generally also learn gross anatomy through practical experience of dissection and inspection of cadavers. The study of microscopic anatomy (or histology) can be aided by practical experience examining histological preparations (or slides) under a microscope. [40]

Human anatomy, physiology and biochemistry are complementary basic medical sciences, which are generally taught to medical students in their first year at medical school. Human anatomy can be taught regionally or systemically; that is, respectively, studying anatomy by bodily regions such as the head and chest, or studying by specific systems, such as the nervous or respiratory systems.[3] The major anatomy textbook, Gray's Anatomy, has been reorganized from a systems format to a regional format, in line with modern teaching methods.[41][42] A thorough working knowledge of anatomy is required by physicians, especially surgeons and doctors working in some diagnostic specialties, such as histopathology and radiology. [43]

Academic anatomists are usually employed by universities, medical schools or teaching hospitals. They are often involved in teaching anatomy, and research into certain systems, organs, tissues or cells.[43]

Invertebrate anatomy

Chirocephalus diaphanus male head
Head of a male Daphnia, a planktonic crustacean

Invertebrates constitute a vast array of living organisms ranging from the simplest unicellular eukaryotes such as Paramecium to such complex multicellular animals as the octopus, lobster and dragonfly. They constitute about 95% of the animal species. By definition, none of these creatures has a backbone. The cells of single-cell protozoans have the same basic structure as those of multicellular animals but some parts are specialized into the equivalent of tissues and organs. Locomotion is often provided by cilia or flagella or may proceed via the advance of pseudopodia, food may be gathered by phagocytosis, energy needs may be supplied by photosynthesis and the cell may be supported by an endoskeleton or an exoskeleton. Some protozoans can form multicellular colonies.[44]

Metazoans are multicellular organism, different groups of cells of which have separate functions. The most basic types of metazoan tissues are epithelium and connective tissue, both of which are present in nearly all invertebrates. The outer surface of the epidermis is normally formed of epithelial cells and secretes an extracellular matrix which provides support to the organism. An endoskeleton derived from the mesoderm is present in echinoderms, sponges and some cephalopods. Exoskeletons are derived from the epidermis and is composed of chitin in arthropods (insects, spiders, ticks, shrimps, crabs, lobsters). Calcium carbonate constitutes the shells of molluscs, brachiopods and some tube-building polychaete worms and silica forms the exoskeleton of the microscopic diatoms and radiolaria.[45] Other invertebrates may have no rigid structures but the epidermis may secrete a variety of surface coatings such as the pinacoderm of sponges, the gelatinous cuticle of cnidarians (polyps, sea anemones, jellyfish) and the collagenous cuticle of annelids. The outer epithelial layer may include cells of several types including sensory cells, gland cells and stinging cells. There may also be protrusions such as microvilli, cilia, bristles, spines and tubercles.[46]

Marcello Malpighi, the father of microscopical anatomy, discovered that plants had tubules similar to those he saw in insects like the silk worm. He observed that when a ring-like portion of bark was removed on a trunk a swelling occurred in the tissues above the ring, and he unmistakably interpreted this as growth stimulated by food coming down from the leaves, and being captured above the ring.[47]

Arthropod anatomy

Arthropods comprise the largest phylum in the animal kingdom with over a million known invertebrate species.[48]

Insects possess segmented bodies supported by a hard-jointed outer covering, the exoskeleton, made mostly of chitin. The segments of the body are organized into three distinct parts, a head, a thorax and an abdomen.[49] The head typically bears a pair of sensory antennae, a pair of compound eyes, one to three simple eyes (ocelli) and three sets of modified appendages that form the mouthparts. The thorax has three pairs of segmented legs, one pair each for the three segments that compose the thorax and one or two pairs of wings. The abdomen is composed of eleven segments, some of which may be fused and houses the digestive, respiratory, excretory and reproductive systems.[50] There is considerable variation between species and many adaptations to the body parts, especially wings, legs, antennae and mouthparts.[51]

Spiders a class of arachnids have four pairs of legs; a body of two segments—a cephalothorax and an abdomen. Spiders have no wings and no antennae. They have mouthparts called chelicerae which are often connected to venom glands as most spiders are venomous. They have a second pair of appendages called pedipalps attached to the cephalothorax. These have similar segmentation to the legs and function as taste and smell organs. At the end of each male pedipalp is a spoon-shaped cymbium that acts to support the copulatory organ.

Other branches of anatomy

  • Superficial or surface anatomy is important as the study of anatomical landmarks that can be readily seen from the exterior contours of the body.[3] It enables physicians or veterinary surgeons to gauge the position and anatomy of the associated deeper structures. Superficial is a directional term that indicates that structures are located relatively close to the surface of the body.[52]
  • Comparative anatomy relates to the comparison of anatomical structures (both gross and microscopic) in different animals.[3]
  • Artistic anatomy relates to anatomic studies for artistic reasons.



Foetal positions in uterus, pregnant female Wellcome L0000845
Image of early rendition of anatomy findings

In 1600 BCE, the Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Ancient Egyptian medical text, described the heart, its vessels, liver, spleen, kidneys, hypothalamus, uterus and bladder, and showed the blood vessels diverging from the heart. The Ebers Papyrus (c. 1550 BCE) features a "treatise on the heart", with vessels carrying all the body's fluids to or from every member of the body.[53]

Ancient Greek anatomy and physiology underwent great changes and advances throughout the early medieval world. Over time, this medical practice expanded by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures in the body. Phenomenal anatomical observations of the human body were made, which have contributed towards the understanding of the brain, eye, liver, reproductive organs and the nervous system.

The Hellenistic Egyptian city of Alexandria was the stepping-stone for Greek anatomy and physiology. Alexandria not only housed the biggest library for medical records and books of the liberal arts in the world during the time of the Greeks, but was also home to many medical practitioners and philosophers. Great patronage of the arts and sciences from the Ptolemy rulers helped raise Alexandria up, further rivalling the cultural and scientific achievements of other Greek states.[54]

The Blue Beryl-Anatomy
An anatomy thangka, part of Desi Sangye Gyatso's The Blue Beryl, 17th century

Some of the most striking advances in early anatomy and physiology took place in Hellenistic Alexandria.[54] Two of the most famous anatomists and physiologists of the third century were Herophilus and Erasistratus. These two physicians helped pioneer human dissection for medical research. They also conducted vivisections on the cadavers of condemned criminals, which was considered taboo until the Renaissance—Herophilus was recognized as the first person to perform systematic dissections.[55] Herophilus became known for his anatomical works making impressing contributions to many branches of anatomy and many other aspects of medicine.[56] Some of the works included classifying the system of the pulse, the discovery that human arteries had thicker walls then veins, and that the atria were parts of the heart. Herophilus's knowledge of the human body has provided vital input towards understanding the brain, eye, liver, reproductive organs and nervous system, and characterizing the course of disease.[57] Erasistratus accurately described the structure of the brain, including the cavities and membranes, and made a distinction between its cerebrum and cerebellum [58] During his study in Alexandria, Erasistratus was particularly concerned with studies of the circulatory and nervous systems. He was able to distinguish the sensory and the motor nerves in the human body and believed that air entered the lungs and heart, which was then carried throughout the body. His distinction between the arteries and veins—the arteries carrying the air through the body, while the veins carried the blood from the heart was a great anatomical discovery. Erasistratus was also responsible for naming and describing the function of the epiglottis and the valves of the heart, including the tricuspid.[59] During the third century, Greek physicians were able to differentiate nerves from blood vessels and tendons [60] and to realize that the nerves convey neural impulses.[54] It was Herophilus who made the point that damage to motor nerves induced paralysis.[61] Herophilus named the meninges and ventricles in the brain, appreciated the division between cerebellum and cerebrum and recognized that the brain was the "seat of intellect" and not a "cooling chamber" as propounded by Aristotle [62] Herophilus is also credited with describing the optic, oculomotor, motor division of the trigeminal, facial, vestibulocochlear and hypoglossal nerves.[63]

13th century anatomical illustration
13th century anatomical illustration

Great feats were made during the third century in both the digestive and reproductive systems. Herophilus was able to discover and describe not only the salivary glands, but the small intestine and liver.[63] He showed that the uterus is a hollow organ and described the ovaries and uterine tubes. He recognized that spermatozoa were produced by the testes and was the first to identify the prostate gland.[63]

The anatomy of the muscles and skeleton is described in the Hippocratic Corpus, an Ancient Greek medical work written by unknown authors.[64] Aristotle described vertebrate anatomy based on animal dissection. Praxagoras identified the difference between arteries and veins. Also in the 4th century BCE, Herophilos and Erasistratus produced more accurate anatomical descriptions based on vivisection of criminals in Alexandria during the Ptolemaic dynasty.[65][66]

In the 2nd century, Galen of Pergamum, an anatomist, clinician, writer and philosopher,[67] wrote the final and highly influential anatomy treatise of ancient times.[68] He compiled existing knowledge and studied anatomy through dissection of animals.[67] He was one of the first experimental physiologists through his vivisection experiments on animals.[69] Galen's drawings, based mostly on dog anatomy, became effectively the only anatomical textbook for the next thousand years.[70] His work was known to Renaissance doctors only through Islamic Golden Age medicine until it was translated from the Greek some time in the 15th century.[70]

Medieval to early modern

Studies of the Arm showing the Movements made by the Biceps
Anatomical study of the arm, by Leonardo da Vinci, (about 1510)
Charta ex qva figvram parare convenit, illi qvae nervorvm seriem exprimit appendendam, 1543.
Anatomical chart in Vesalius's Epitome, 1543
Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt - Anatomy lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer
Michiel Jansz van MiereveltAnatomy lesson of Dr. Willem van der Meer, 1617

Anatomy developed little from classical times until the sixteenth century; as the historian Marie Boas writes, "Progress in anatomy before the sixteenth century is as mysteriously slow as its development after 1500 is startlingly rapid".[70]:120–121 Between 1275 and 1326, the anatomists Mondino de Luzzi, Alessandro Achillini and Antonio Benivieni at Bologna carried out the first systematic human dissections since ancient times.[71][72][73] Mondino's Anatomy of 1316 was the first textbook in the medieval rediscovery of human anatomy. It describes the body in the order followed in Mondino's dissections, starting with the abdomen, then the thorax, then the head and limbs. It was the standard anatomy textbook for the next century.[70]

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was trained in anatomy by Andrea del Verrocchio.[70] He made use of his anatomical knowledge in his artwork, making many sketches of skeletal structures, muscles and organs of humans and other vertebrates that he dissected.[70][74]

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) (Latinized from Andries van Wezel), professor of anatomy at the University of Padua, is considered the founder of modern human anatomy.[75] Originally from Brabant, Vesalius published the influential book De humani corporis fabrica ("the structure of the human body"), a large format book in seven volumes, in 1543.[76] The accurate and intricately detailed illustrations, often in allegorical poses against Italianate landscapes, are thought to have been made by the artist Jan van Calcar, a pupil of Titian.[77]

In England, anatomy was the subject of the first public lectures given in any science; these were given by the Company of Barbers and Surgeons in the 16th century, joined in 1583 by the Lumleian lectures in surgery at the Royal College of Physicians.[78]

Late modern

In the United States, medical schools began to be set up towards the end of the 18th century. Classes in anatomy needed a continual stream of cadavers for dissection and these were difficult to obtain. Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York were all renowned for body snatching activity as criminals raided graveyards at night, removing newly buried corpses from their coffins.[79] A similar problem existed in Britain where demand for bodies became so great that grave-raiding and even anatomy murder were practised to obtain cadavers.[80] Some graveyards were in consequence protected with watchtowers. The practice was halted in Britain by the Anatomy Act of 1832,[81][82] while in the United States, similar legislation was enacted after the physician William S. Forbes of Jefferson Medical College was found guilty in 1882 of "complicity with resurrectionists in the despoliation of graves in Lebanon Cemetery".[83]

The teaching of anatomy in Britain was transformed by Sir John Struthers, Regius Professor of Anatomy at the University of Aberdeen from 1863 to 1889. He was responsible for setting up the system of three years of "pre-clinical" academic teaching in the sciences underlying medicine, including especially anatomy. This system lasted until the reform of medical training in 1993 and 2003. As well as teaching, he collected many vertebrate skeletons for his museum of comparative anatomy, published over 70 research papers, and became famous for his public dissection of the Tay Whale.[84][85] From 1822 the Royal College of Surgeons regulated the teaching of anatomy in medical schools.[86] Medical museums provided examples in comparative anatomy, and were often used in teaching.[87] Ignaz Semmelweis investigated puerperal fever and he discovered how it was caused. He noticed that the frequently fatal fever occurred more often in mothers examined by medical students than by midwives. The students went from the dissecting room to the hospital ward and examined women in childbirth. Semmelweis showed that when the trainees washed their hands in chlorinated lime before each clinical examination, the incidence of puerperal fever among the mothers could be reduced dramatically.[88]

An electron microscope from 1973

Before the modern medical era, the main means for studying the internal structures of the body were dissection of the dead and inspection, palpation and auscultation of the living. It was the advent of microscopy that opened up an understanding of the building blocks that constituted living tissues. Technical advances in the development of achromatic lenses increased the resolving power of the microscope and around 1839, Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann identified that cells were the fundamental unit of organization of all living things. Study of small structures involved passing light through them and the microtome was invented to provide sufficiently thin slices of tissue to examine. Staining techniques using artificial dyes were established to help distinguish between different types of tissue. Advances in the fields of histology and cytology began in the late 19th century[89] along with advances in surgical techniques allowing for the painless and safe removal of biopsy specimens. The invention of the electron microscope brought a great advance in resolution power and allowed research into the ultrastructure of cells and the organelles and other structures within them. About the same time, in the 1950s, the use of X-ray diffraction for studying the crystal structures of proteins, nucleic acids and other biological molecules gave rise to a new field of molecular anatomy.[89]

Equally important advances have occurred in non-invasive techniques for examining the interior structures of the body. X-rays can be passed through the body and used in medical radiography and fluoroscopy to differentiate interior structures that have varying degrees of opaqueness. Magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and ultrasound imaging have all enabled examination of internal structures in unprecedented detail to a degree far beyond the imagination of earlier generations.[90]

See also


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External links


The abdomen (less formally called the belly, stomach, tummy or midriff) constitutes the part of the body between the thorax (chest) and pelvis, in humans and in other vertebrates. The abdomen is the frontal part of the abdominal segment of the trunk, the dorsal part of this segment being the back of the abdomen. The region occupied by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity. In arthropods it is the posterior tagma of the body; it follows the thorax or cephalothorax. The abdomen stretches from the thorax at the thoracic diaphragm to the pelvis at the pelvic brim. The pelvic brim stretches from the lumbosacral joint (the intervertebral disc between L5 and S1) to the pubic symphysis and is the edge of the pelvic inlet. The space above this inlet and under the thoracic diaphragm is termed the abdominal cavity. The boundary of the abdominal cavity is the abdominal wall in the front and the peritoneal surface at the rear.

Anatomical terms of location

Standard anatomical terms of location deal unambiguously with the anatomy of animals, including humans.

All vertebrates (including humans) have the same basic body plan – they are strictly bilaterally symmetrical in early embryonic stages and largely bilaterally symmetrical in adulthood. That is, they have mirror-image left and right halves if divided down the middle. For these reasons, the basic directional terms can be considered to be those used in vertebrates. By extension, the same terms are used for many other (invertebrate) organisms as well.

While these terms are standardized within specific fields of biology, there are unavoidable, sometimes dramatic, differences between some disciplines. For example, differences in terminology remain a problem that, to some extent, still separates the terminology of human anatomy from that used in the study of various other zoological categories.

Anatomical terms of motion

Motion, the process of movement, is described using specific anatomical terms. Motion includes movement of organs, joints, limbs, and specific sections of the body. The terminology used describes this motion according to its direction relative to the anatomical position of the joints. Anatomists use a unified set of terms to describe most of the movements, although other, more specialized terms are necessary for describing the uniqueness of the movements such as those of the hands, feet, and eyes.

In general, motion is classified according to the anatomical plane it occurs in. Flexion and extension are examples of angular motions, in which two axes of a joint are brought closer together or moved further apart. Rotational motion may occur at other joints, for example the shoulder, and are described as internal or external. Other terms, such as elevation and depression, describe movement above or below the horizontal plane. Many anatomical terms derive from Latin terms with the same meaning.


The gastropods (), more commonly known as snails and slugs, belong to a large taxonomic class of invertebrates within the phylum Mollusca, called Gastropoda. This class comprises snails and slugs from saltwater, from freshwater, and from the land. There are many thousands of species of sea snails and slugs, as well as freshwater snails, freshwater limpets, and land snails and slugs.

The class Gastropoda contains a vast total of named species, second only to the insects in overall number. The fossil history of this class goes back to the Late Cambrian. As of 2017, 721 families of gastropods are known, of which 245 are extinct and appear only in the fossil record, while 476 are currently extant with or without a fossil record.Gastropoda (previously known as univalves and sometimes spelled "Gasteropoda") are a major part of the phylum Mollusca, and are the most highly diversified class in the phylum, with 65,000 to 80,000 living snail and slug species. The anatomy, behavior, feeding, and reproductive adaptations of gastropods vary significantly from one clade or group to another. Therefore, it is difficult to state many generalities for all gastropods.

The class Gastropoda has an extraordinary diversification of habitats. Representatives live in gardens, woodland, deserts, and on mountains; in small ditches, great rivers and lakes; in estuaries, mudflats, the rocky intertidal, the sandy subtidal, in the abyssal depths of the oceans including the hydrothermal vents, and numerous other ecological niches, including parasitic ones.

Although the name "snail" can be, and often is, applied to all the members of this class, commonly this word means only those species with an external shell big enough that the soft parts can withdraw completely into it. Those gastropods without a shell, and those with only a very reduced or internal shell, are usually known as slugs; those with a shell into which they can partly but not completely withdraw are termed semi-slugs.

The marine shelled species of gastropod include species such as abalone, conches, periwinkles, whelks, and numerous other sea snails that produce seashells that are coiled in the adult stage—though in some, the coiling may not be very visible, for example in cowries. In a number of families of species, such as all the various limpets, the shell is coiled only in the larval stage, and is a simple conical structure after that.

Gray's Anatomy

Gray's Anatomy is an English language textbook of human anatomy originally written by Henry Gray and illustrated by Henry Vandyke Carter. Earlier editions were called Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical, Anatomy of the Human Body and Gray's Anatomy: Descriptive and Applied, but the book's name is commonly shortened to, and later editions are titled, Gray's Anatomy. The book is widely regarded as an extremely influential work on the subject, and has continued to be revised and republished from its initial publication in 1858 to the present day. The latest edition of the book, the 41st, was published in September 2015.

Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy is an American medical drama television series that premiered on March 27, 2005, on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a mid-season replacement. The fictional series focuses on the lives of surgical interns, residents, and attending physicians, as they develop into seasoned doctors while trying to maintain personal lives and relationships. The title is a play on Gray's Anatomy, a classic human anatomy textbook first published in 1858 in London and written by Henry Gray. Shonda Rhimes developed the pilot and continues to write for the series; she is also one of the executive producers, along with Betsy Beers, Mark Gordon, Krista Vernoff, Rob Corn, Mark Wilding, and Allan Heinberg. Although the series is set in Seattle (at the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital, later known as the Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital), it is filmed primarily in Los Angeles, California.

The series was designed to be racially diverse and used color-blind casting. It revolves around the title character, Dr. Meredith Grey, played by Ellen Pompeo, first featured as an intern. The original cast consisted of nine star-billed actors: Pompeo, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, Justin Chambers, T. R. Knight, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens Jr., Isaiah Washington and Patrick Dempsey. The cast has undergone major changes through the series' run, with many members leaving and being replaced by others. In its fifteenth season, the show has a large ensemble of eleven actors, including four characters from the original cast (Meredith Grey, Alex Karev, Miranda Bailey, and Richard Webber).

Grey's Anatomy was renewed for a fifteenth season, which premiered on September 27, 2018. The series' success catapulted such long-running cast members as Pompeo, Dempsey, and Oh to worldwide recognition; they were among the top five highest-earning television actors in 2013. While the show's ratings have fallen over the course of its run (it was once among the overall top 10 shows in the United States), it is still one of the highest-rated shows among the 18–49 demographic, and the No. 3 drama on all of broadcast television. The series was the highest revenue-earning show on television, in terms of advertising, in the 2007–08 season; in 2017, it was ranked tenth on the list. Grey's Anatomy ranks as ABC's highest-rated drama in its fifteenth season.

Grey's Anatomy has been well received by critics throughout much of its run, and has been included in various critics' year-end top ten lists. Since its inception, the show has been described by the media outlets as a television "phenomenon" or a "juggernaut", owing to its longevity and dominant ratings. It is considered to have had a significant effect on popular culture and has received numerous awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama and a total of thirty-eight Primetime Emmy Award nominations, including two for Outstanding Drama Series. The cast members have also received several accolades for their respective performances. Grey's Anatomy is the longest-running scripted primetime show currently airing on ABC, and the longest scripted primetime series carried by ABC in general. As of 28 February 2019, it is the longest running American primetime medical drama series.


A hand is a prehensile, multi-fingered appendage located at the end of the forearm or forelimb of primates such as humans, chimpanzees, monkeys, and lemurs. A few other vertebrates such as the koala (which has two opposable thumbs on each "hand" and fingerprints extremely similar to human fingerprints) are often described as having "hands" instead of paws on their front limbs. The raccoon is usually described as having "hands" though opposable thumbs are lacking.Some evolutionary anatomists use the term hand to refer to the appendage of digits on the forelimb more generally — for example, in the context of whether the three digits of the bird hand involved the same homologous loss of two digits as in the dinosaur hand.The human hand normally has five digits: four fingers plus one thumb; these are often referred to collectively as five fingers, however, whereby the thumb is included as one of the fingers. It has 27 bones, not including the sesamoid bone, the number of which varies between people, 14 of which are the phalanges (proximal, intermediate and distal) of the fingers and thumb. The metacarpal bones connect the fingers and the carpal bones of the wrist. Each human hand has five metacarpals and eight carpal bones.

Fingers contain some of the densest areas of nerve endings in the body, and are the richest source of tactile feedback. They also have the greatest positioning capability of the body; thus, the sense of touch is intimately associated with hands. Like other paired organs (eyes, feet, legs) each hand is dominantly controlled by the opposing brain hemisphere, so that handedness—the preferred hand choice for single-handed activities such as writing with a pencil, reflects individual brain functioning.

Among humans, the hands play an important function in body language and sign language. Likewise the ten digits of two hands, and the twelve phalanges of four fingers (touchable by the thumb) have given rise to number systems and calculation techniques.


The heart is a muscular organ in most animals, which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system. Blood provides the body with oxygen and nutrients, as well as assisting in the removal of metabolic wastes. In humans, the heart is located between the lungs, in the middle compartment of the chest.In humans, other mammals, and birds, the heart is divided into four chambers: upper left and right atria; and lower left and right ventricles. Commonly the right atrium and ventricle are referred together as the right heart and their left counterparts as the left heart. Fish, in contrast, have two chambers, an atrium and a ventricle, while reptiles have three chambers. In a healthy heart blood flows one way through the heart due to heart valves, which prevent backflow. The heart is enclosed in a protective sac, the pericardium, which also contains a small amount of fluid. The wall of the heart is made up of three layers: epicardium, myocardium, and endocardium.The heart pumps blood with a rhythm determined by a group of pacemaking cells in the sinoatrial node. These generate a current that causes contraction of the heart, traveling through the atrioventricular node and along the conduction system of the heart. The heart receives blood low in oxygen from the systemic circulation, which enters the right atrium from the superior and inferior venae cavae and passes to the right ventricle. From here it is pumped into the pulmonary circulation, through the lungs where it receives oxygen and gives off carbon dioxide. Oxygenated blood then returns to the left atrium, passes through the left ventricle and is pumped out through the aorta to the systemic circulation−where the oxygen is used and metabolized to carbon dioxide. The heart beats at a resting rate close to 72 beats per minute. Exercise temporarily increases the rate, but lowers resting heart rate in the long term, and is good for heart health.Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the most common cause of death globally as of 2008, accounting for 30% of deaths. Of these more than three quarters are a result of coronary artery disease and stroke. Risk factors include: smoking, being overweight, little exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poorly controlled diabetes, among others. Cardiovascular diseases frequently do not have symptoms or may cause chest pain or shortness of breath. Diagnosis of heart disease is often done by the taking of a medical history, listening to the heart-sounds with a stethoscope, ECG, and ultrasound. Specialists who focus on diseases of the heart are called cardiologists, although many specialties of medicine may be involved in treatment.

Human body

The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of many different types of cells that together create tissues and subsequently organ systems. They ensure homeostasis and the viability of the human body.

It comprises a head, neck, trunk (which includes the thorax and abdomen), arms and hands, legs and feet.

The study of the human body involves anatomy, physiology, histology and embryology. The body varies anatomically in known ways. Physiology focuses on the systems and organs of the human body and their functions. Many systems and mechanisms interact in order to maintain homeostasis, with safe levels of substances such as sugar and oxygen in the blood.

The body is studied by health professionals, physiologists, anatomists, and by artists to assist them in their work.


A joint or articulation (or articular surface) is the connection made between bones in the body which link the skeletal system into a functional whole. They are constructed to allow for different degrees and types of movement. Some joints, such as the knee, elbow, and shoulder, are self-lubricating, almost frictionless, and are able to withstand compression and maintain heavy loads while still executing smooth and precise movements. Other joints such as sutures between the bones of the skull permit very little movement (only during birth) in order to protect the brain and the sense organs. The connection between a tooth and the jawbone is also called a joint, and is described as a fibrous joint known as a gomphosis. Joints are classified both structurally and functionally.

Katherine Heigl

Katherine Marie Heigl (; born November 24, 1978) is an American actress, film producer, and former fashion model. She started her career as a child model with Wilhelmina Models before turning her attention to acting, making her film debut in That Night (1992) and later appearing in My Father the Hero (1994) as well as Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995). Heigl then landed the role of Isabel Evans on The WB television series Roswell (1999–2002), for which she received nominations for Saturn and Teen Choice Awards.

From 2005 to 2010, Heigl starred as Izzie Stevens on the ABC television medical drama Grey's Anatomy, a role which brought her significant recognition and accolades, including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2007. Her best known film appearances include roles in Knocked Up (2007), 27 Dresses (2008), The Ugly Truth (2009), Killers (2010), Life As We Know It (2010), New Year's Eve (2011), The Big Wedding (2013), and Unforgettable (2017). Heigl has also starred in several films that have seen limited releases, including Jackie & Ryan (2014), Home Sweet Hell (2015), and Jenny's Wedding (2015). She also portrayed the lead role on the short-lived NBC television series State of Affairs from 2014 to 2015, and has lent her voice to the animated film The Nut Job (2014) and its 2017 sequel.

Additionally, Heigl has established herself as a cover model, appearing in numerous publications including Maxim, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan. She is married to singer Josh Kelley, with whom she has one son and two daughters.

List of Grey's Anatomy episodes

Grey's Anatomy is an American medical drama television series that premiered on American Broadcasting Company (ABC) as a mid-season replacement on March 27, 2005. The series has aired for fourteen seasons, and focuses on the fictional lives of surgical interns and residents as they evolve into seasoned doctors while trying to maintain personal lives. The show's premise originated with Shonda Rhimes, who serves as an executive producer, along with Betsy Beers, Mark Gordon, Krista Vernoff, Rob Corn, Mark Wilding, and Allan Heinberg. The series was created to be racially diverse, utilizing a color-blind casting technique. It is primarily filmed in Los Angeles. The show's title is a play on Gray's Anatomy, the classic human anatomy textbook.

Episodes have been broadcast on Thursday nights since Grey's third season. The first two seasons aired after Desperate Housewives in the Sunday 10:00 pm EST time-slot. All episodes are approximately forty-three minutes, excluding commercials, and are broadcast in both high-definition and standard. Episodes are also available for download at the iTunes Store in standard and high definition, and Amazon Video, with new episodes appearing the day after their live airings. ABC Video on demand also releases episodes of the show, typically one to two days after their premieres. Recent episodes are available at ABC's official Grey's Anatomy website, and on Hulu. In 2010, ABC signed a deal allowing Grey's Anatomy episodes to be streamed on Netflix.Grey's Anatomy was among the ten highest-rated shows in the United States from the show's first through fourth season. The show's episodes have won a number of awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Series, a People's Choice Award for Favorite TV Drama, and multiple NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Drama Series. Since its premiere, Buena Vista Home Entertainment has distributed all seasons on DVD. There have been several special episodes recapping events from previous episodes, and two series of webisodes.

As of March 21, 2019, 335 episodes of Grey's Anatomy have aired, including five specials. On April 20, 2018, ABC officially renewed Grey's Anatomy for a fifteenth season, making it the longest running drama ever for the network.


Marsupials are any members of the mammalian infraclass Marsupialia. All extant marsupials are endemic to Australasia and the Americas. A distinctive characteristic common to these species is that most of the young are carried in a pouch. Well-known marsupials include kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, opossums, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. Some lesser-known marsupials are the dunnarts, potoroos and cuscuses.

Marsupials represent the clade originating from the last common ancestor of extant metatherians. Like other mammals in the Metatheria, they give birth to relatively undeveloped young that often reside in a pouch located on their mothers’ abdomen for a certain amount of time. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur on the Australian continent (the mainland, Tasmania, New Guinea and nearby islands). The remaining 100 are found in the Americas — primarily in South America, but thirteen in Central America, and one in North America, north of Mexico.

The word marsupial comes from marsupium, the technical term for the abdominal pouch. It, in turn, is borrowed from Latin and ultimately from the ancient Greek μάρσιππος mársippos, meaning "pouch".

Nail (anatomy)

A nail is a horn-like envelope covering the tips of the fingers and toes in most primates and a few other mammals. Nails are similar to claws in other animals. Fingernails and toenails are made of a tough protective protein called alpha-keratin. This protein is also found in the hooves and horns of different animals.

Sex organ

A sex organ (or reproductive organ) is any part of an animal's body that is involved in sexual reproduction. The reproductive organs together constitute the reproductive system. The testis in the male, and the ovary in the female, are called the primary sex organs. The external sex organs – the genitals or genitalia, visible at birth in both sexes, and the internal sex organs are called the secondary sex organs.Mosses, ferns, and some similar plants have gametangia for reproductive organs, which are part of the gametophyte. The flowers of flowering plants produce pollen and egg cells, but the sex organs themselves are inside the gametophytes within the pollen and the ovule. Coniferous plants likewise produce their sexually reproductive structures within the gametophytes contained within the cones and pollen. The cones and pollen are not themselves sexual organs.


The skull is a bony structure that forms the head in vertebrates. It supports the structures of the face and provides a protective cavity for the brain. The skull is composed of two parts: the cranium and the mandible. In the human, these two parts are the neurocranium and the viscerocranium or facial skeleton that includes the mandible as its largest bone. The skull forms the anterior most portion of the skeleton and is a product of cephalisation—housing the brain, and several sensory structures such as the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. In humans these sensory structures are part of the facial skeleton.

Functions of the skull include protection of the brain, fixing the distance between the eyes to allow stereoscopic vision, and fixing the position of the ears to enable sound localisation of the direction and distance of sounds. In some animals such as horned ungulates, the skull also has a defensive function by providing the mount (on the frontal bone) for the horns.

The English word "skull" is probably derived from Old Norse "skulle", while the Latin word cranium comes from the Greek root κρανίον (kranion).

The skull is made up of a number of fused flat bones, and contains many foramina, fossae, processes, and several cavities or sinuses. In zoology there are openings in the skull called fenestrae.


In the vertebrate spinal column, each vertebra is an irregular bone with a complex structure composed of bone and some hyaline cartilage, the proportions of which vary according to the segment of the backbone and the species of vertebrate.

The basic configuration of a vertebra varies; the large part is the body, and the central part is the centrum. The upper and lower surfaces of the vertebra body give attachment to the intervertebral discs. The posterior part of a vertebra forms a vertebral arch, in eleven parts, consisting of two pedicles, two laminae, and seven processes. The laminae give attachment to the ligamenta flava (ligaments of the spine). There are vertebral notches formed from the shape of the pedicles, which form the intervertebral foramina when the vertebrae articulate. These foramina are the entry and exit conducts for the spinal nerves. The body of the vertebra and the vertebral arch form the vertebral foramen, the larger, central opening that accommodates the spinal canal, which encloses and protects the spinal cord.

Vertebrae articulate with each other to give strength and flexibility to the spinal column, and the shape at their back and front aspects determines the range of movement. Structurally, vertebrae are essentially alike across the vertebrate species, with the greatest difference seen between an aquatic animal and other vertebrate animals. As such, vertebrates take their name from the vertebrae that compose the vertebral column.

Vertebral column

The vertebral column, also known as the backbone or spine, is part of the axial skeleton. The vertebral column is the defining characteristic of a vertebrate in which the notochord (a flexible rod of uniform composition) found in all chordates has been replaced by a segmented series of bone: vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs. The vertebral column houses the spinal canal, a cavity that encloses and protects the spinal cord.

There are about 50,000 species of animals that have a vertebral column. The human vertebral column is one of the most-studied examples.

Circulatory system
Nervous system
Integumentary system
Immune system
Respiratory system
Digestive system
Urinary system
Reproductive system
Endocrine system
Anatomy and morphology
Other vertebrates
Other topics
Hierarchy of life

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