Osteology is the scientific study of bones, practiced by osteologists. A subdiscipline of anatomy, anthropology, and archaeology, osteology is a detailed study of the structure of bones, skeletal elements, teeth, microbone morphology, function, disease, pathology, the process of ossification (from cartilaginous molds), the resistance and hardness of bones (biophysics), etc. often used by scientists with identification of vertebrate remains with regard to age, death, sex, growth, and development and can be used in a biocultural context. Osteologists frequently work in the public and private sector as consultants for museums, scientists for research laboratories, scientists for medical investigations and/or for companies producing osteological reproductions in an academic context.

Osteology and osteologists should not be confused with the holistic practice of medicine known as osteopathy and its practitioners, osteopaths.


A typical analysis will include:

  • an inventory of the skeletal elements present
  • a dental inventory
  • aging data, based upon epiphyseal fusion and dental eruption (for subadults) and deterioration of the pubic symphysis or sternal end of ribs (for adults)
  • stature and other metric data
  • ancestry
  • non-metric traits
  • pathology and/or cultural modifications


Compared Osteology Room La Plata Museum
Comparative Osteology Room in the La Plata Museum, Argentina.

Osteological approaches are frequently applied to investigations in disciplines such as vertebrate paleontology, zoology, forensic science, physical anthropology and archaeology, and has a place in research on topics including:

Crossrail Project

A recent endeavor by the city of London to expand their railway system inadvertently uncovered 25 human skeletons at Charterhouse Square in 2013. Although archaeological excavation of the skeletons temporarily halted the further advances in the railway system, they have given way to new, possibly revolutionary discoveries in the field, as well as re-write history.

These 25 skeletal remains, along with many more that were found in further searches, are believed to be from the mass graves dug to bury the millions of victims of the Black Death in the 14th century. Archaeologists and forensic scientists have used osteology to examine the condition of the skeletal remains, to help piece together the reason why the Black Death had such a detrimental effect on the European population. It was discovered that most of the population was in generally poor health to begin with. Through extensive analysis of the bones, it was discovered that many of the inhabitants of Great Britain were plagued with rickets, anemia, and malnutrition.[1] There has also been frequent evidence that much of the population had traces of broken bones from frequent fighting and hard labor.

This archaeological project has been named the Crossrail Project. Archaeologists will continue to excavate and search for remains to help uncover missing pieces of history. These advances in our understanding of the past will be improved by the study of other skeletons buried in the same area.

See also


  1. ^ McCoy, Terrence. "Everything you know about the Black Death is wrong". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 April 2014.


  • Bass, W. M. 2005. Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. 5th Edition. Columbia: Missouri Archaeological Society.
  • Buikstra, J. E. and Ubelaker, D. H. (eds.) 1994. Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains. Arkansas Archeological Survey Research Series No. 44.
  • Cox, M and Mays, S. (eds.) 2000. Human Osteology in Archaeology and Forensic Science. London: Greenwich Medical Media.

External links


Archaeobiology, the study of the biology of ancient times through archaeological materials, is a subspecialty of archaeology. It can be seen as a blanket term for paleobotany, animal osteology, zooarchaeology, microbiology, and many other sub-disciplines. Specifically, plant and animal remains are also called ecofacts. Sometimes these ecofacts can be left by humans and sometimes they can be naturally occurring. Archaeobiology tends to focus on more recent finds, so the difference between archaeobiology and palaeontology is mainly one of date: archaeobiologists typically work with more recent, non-fossilised material found at archaeological sites. Only very rarely are archaeobiological excavations performed at sites with no sign of human presence.


Arkharavia is a dubious genus of somphospondylan sauropod, but at least some of the remains probably belong to a hadrosaurid. It lived in what is now Russia, during the Late Cretaceous. It was described in 2010 by Alifanov and Bolotsky. The type species is A. heterocoelica.

Cane turtle

The Cochin forest cane turtle (Vijayachelys silvatica), also known as Kavalai forest turtle, forest cane turtle or simply cane turtle, is a rare turtle from the Western Ghats of India. Described in 1912, its type locality is given as "Near Kavalai in the Cochin State Forests, inhabiting dense forest, at an elevation of about 1500 feet above sea level". Only two specimens were found at that time, and no scientist saw this turtle in the next 70 years. It was finally rediscovered in 1982, and since then a number of specimens have been found and some studies have been conducted about its affiliation and habits.Like its relatives, it belongs to the subfamily Geoemydinae of the family Geoemydidae, formerly known as Bataguridae. It was once placed in the genus Geoemyda and subsequently moved to Heosemys. But as it seems, the Cochin forest cane turtle forms a quite distinct lineage closely related to Melanochelys. Thus, nowadays it is recognized as a monotypic genus, named Vijayachelys in honor of the famous Indian herpetologist Jagannathan Vijaya (1959–1987) who rediscovered this species in 1982 and until her death extensively studied it. A diagnosis of the osteology of Vijayachelys was published in 2006.

Charles W. Gilmore

Charles Whitney Gilmore (March 11, 1874 – September 27, 1945) was an American paleontologist who gained renown in the early 20th century for his work on vertebrate fossils during his career at the United States National Museum (now the National Museum of Natural History). Gilmore named many dinosaurs in North America and Mongolia, including the Cretaceous sauropod Alamosaurus, Alectrosaurus, Archaeornithomimus, Bactrosaurus, Brachyceratops, Chirostenotes, Mongolosaurus, Parrosaurus, Pinacosaurus, Styracosaurus ovatus (now Rubeosaurus) and Thescelosaurus.

Edwin Chapin Starks

Edwin Chapin Starks (born in Baraboo, Wisconsin on January 25, 1867; died December 29, 1932) was an ichthyologist most associated with Stanford University. He was known as an authority on the osteology of fish. He also did studies of fish of the Puget Sound. His wife and daughter were also both involved in either science or natural history.

Forensic anthropology

Forensic anthropology is the application of the anatomical science of anthropology and its various subfields, including forensic archaeology and forensic taphonomy, in a legal setting. A forensic anthropologist can assist in the identification of deceased individuals whose remains are decomposed, burned, mutilated or otherwise unrecognizable, as might happen in a plane crash. Forensic anthropologists are also instrumental to the investigation and documentation of genocide and mass graves. Along with forensic pathologists, forensic dentists, and homicide investigators, forensic anthropologists commonly testify in court as expert witnesses. Using physical markers present on a skeleton, a forensic anthropologist can potentially determine a victim's age, sex, stature, and ancestry. In addition to identifying physical characteristics of the individual, forensic anthropologists can use skeletal abnormalities to potentially determine cause of death, past trauma such as broken bones or medical procedures, as well as diseases such as bone cancer.

The methods used to identify a person from a skeleton relies on the past contributions of various anthropologists and the study of human skeletal differences. Through the collection of thousands of specimens and the analysis of differences within a population, estimations can be made based on physical characteristics. Through these, a set of remains can potentially be identified. The field of forensic anthropology grew during the twentieth century into a fully recognized forensic specialty involving trained anthropologists as well as numerous research institutions gathering data on decomposition and the effects it can have on the skeleton.

Infratemporal fossa

The infratemporal fossa is an irregularly shaped cavity, situated below and medial to the zygomatic arch. It is not fully enclosed by bone in all directions, and it contains superficial muscles that are visible during dissection after removing skin and fascia: namely, the lower part of the temporalis muscle, the lateral pterygoid, and the medial pterygoid.

Its boundaries may be defined by:

anteriorly, by the infratemporal surface of the maxilla and the ridge which descends from its zygomatic process

posteriorly, by the articular tubercle of the temporal and the spina angularis of the sphenoid

superiorly, by the greater wing of the sphenoid below the infratemporal crest, and by the under surface of the temporal squama, containing the foramen ovale, which transmits the mandibular branch of the trigeminal nerve, and the foramen spinosum, which transmits the middle meningeal artery

inferiorly, by the medial pterygoid muscle attaching to the mandible

medially, by the lateral pterygoid plate

laterally, by the ramus of mandible, which contains the mandibular foramen, leading to the mandibular canal through which the inferior alveolar nerve passes. This also contains the lingula, a triangular piece of bone that overlies the mandibular foramen antero-medially. Finally, the mylohyoid groove descends obliquely transmitting the mylohyoid nerve the only motor branch of the posterior division of the trigeminal nerve.

Keel (bird anatomy)

A keel or carina (plural carinae) in bird anatomy is an extension of the sternum (breastbone) which runs axially along the midline of the sternum and extends outward, perpendicular to the plane of the ribs. The keel provides an anchor to which a bird's wing muscles attach, thereby providing adequate leverage for flight. Keels do not exist on all birds; in particular, some flightless birds lack a keel structure.

Historically, the presence or absence of a pronounced keel structure was used as a broad classification of birds into two orders: Carinatae (from carina, "keel"), having a pronounced keel; and ratites (from ratis, "raft" — referring to the flatness of the sternum), having a subtle keel structure or lacking one entirely. However, this classification has fallen into disuse as evolutionary studies have shown that many flightless birds have evolved from flighted birds.


Leptopleuron is an extinct genus of procolophonid that lived in the dry lands during the late Triassic in Elgin of northern Scotland and was the first to be included in the clade of Procolophonidae. First described by English paleontologist and biologist Sir Richard Owen, Leptopleuron is derived from two Greek bases, leptos for "slender" and pleuron for "rib," describing it as having slender ribs. The fossil is also known by a second name, Telerpeton, which is derived from the Greek bases tele for "far off" and herpeton for "reptile." In Scotland, Leptopleuron was found specifically in the Lossiemouth Sandstone Formation. The yellow sandstone it was located in was poorly lithified with wind coming from the southwest. The environment is also described to consist of barchan dunes due to the winds, ranging up to 20 m tall that spread during dry phases into flood plains. Procolophonoids such as Leptopleuron were considered an essential addition to the terrestrial ecosystem during the Triassic.


Loaches are fishes of the superfamily Cobitoidea. They are freshwater, benthic (bottom-dwelling) fishes found in rivers and creeks throughout Eurasia and northern Africa. Loaches are among the most diverse groups of fishes; the 1249 known species of Cobitoidea comprise about 107 genera divided among 9 families.


Lufengosaurus (Chinese: 祿豐龍 or 禄丰龙, meaning "Lufeng lizard") is a genus of massospondylid dinosaur which lived during the Early Jurassic period in what is now southwestern China. The dinosaur made international headlines in 2017 when Nature Communications reported scientists' discovery of 195-million-year-old collagen protein in the rib of a Lufengosarus fossil.

Museum of Osteology

The Museum of Osteology, located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States, North America, is a private museum devoted to the study of bones and skeletons (osteology). This museum displays over 350 skeletons from animal species from animals all over the world. With another 7000 specimens as part of the collection, but not on display, this is the largest privately held collection of osteological specimens in the world.

Muséum de Toulouse

The Muséum de Toulouse, Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de la ville de Toulouse (abbreviation: MHNT) is a museum of natural history in Toulouse, France. It is located in the Busca-Montplaisir, and houses a collection of more than 2.5 million items and has some 3 000 square metres of exhibition space. Its Index Herbariorum code is TLM.


Parasuchidae is a clade of phytosaurs more derived than Diandongosuchus.

Parasuchids have been recovered from Late Triassic deposits in Europe, North America, India, Morocco, Thailand, Brazil, Greenland and Madagascar. In their osteology of Parasuchus, Kammerer et al. (2016) suggested using Parasuchidae to include taxa traditionally included in Phytosauridae as well as Parasuchus-grade taxa. Stocker et al. (2017) utilize the phytosaur classification advocated by Kammerer et al. (2016) by recovering Diandongosuchus as the basalmost phytosaur outside Parasuchidae, noting that Diandongosuchus has a shorter snout than parasuchids.

Primary bone

Primary bone is the first bone tissue that appears in embryonic development and in fracture repair. It is characterized by its random position of collagen fibers. In most places in adults this tissue is replaced by secondary bone tissue except, for example, near the sutures of calvara or tooth sockets. The secondary bones have lower amounts of osteocytes so primary bone is much more easily penetrated by x-ray.

Southern Vietnamese box turtle

The Southern Vietnamese box turtle (Cuora picturata) is endemic to the southern mountainous regions of Vietnam, and possibly also occurring in extreme eastern Cambodia and southern Laos. It is known only from Khanh Hoa and southern Phu Yen provinces, but may also occur in eastern Dak Lak and northern Ninh Thuan provinces.

This species was initially described as a subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons, but was shown to be genetically distinct. This is the same for Cuora galbinifrons bourreti, which is much closer related to Cuora galbinifrons, though, in osteology, genetics and morphology than is Cuora picturata to either one. Thus, this variety probably truly deserved species status.

This species has the highest-domed carapace of all Cuora species, the shape resembling a conquistador helmet. While the head coloration of Cuora galbinifrons subspecies is highly variable even in different populations, this is not the case with C. picturata, whose head is always yellow with a fine, greyish reticulation.

Tyson R. Roberts

Tyson Royal Roberts is an American ichthyologist. He has been described as "the world's foremost authority on Regalecus".Roberts attended Stanford University, where he earned his B.A. in 1961 and a Ph.D. in 1968. His doctoral thesis was titled "Studies on the osteology and phylogeny of characoid fishes." He won a 1999 Guggenheim Fellowship in the field of "Organismic Biology & Ecology", and is a research associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and is also affiliated to the Institute of Molecular Biosciences of Mahidol University, Thailand.

Zoological specimen

A zoological specimen is an animal or part of an animal preserved for scientific use.

Various uses are: to verify the identity of a (species), to allow study, increase public knowledge of zoology.

Zoological specimens are extremely diverse. Examples are bird and mammal study skins, mounted specimens, skeletal material, casts, pinned insects, dried material, animals preserved in liquid preservatives, and microscope slides.

Natural history museums are repositories of zoological specimens

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