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A cast of a human skull It's a simple fact, most animals move. Humans (like you) can move because your body is supported by an internal skeleton - that's right, you are just a bag of bones!

Look at the bones that make up the human skeleton

All vertebrate animals (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) have internal skeletons. Although they look quite different at first glance, they share some basic characteristics.

Have a look at the skeletons below and compare them to the human skeleton. Can you recognise the skull, the leg bones and the spine in the pelican, frog and tiger?
Click on the pictures to find out more!

Animal skeletons Frog skeleton Pelican skeleton Tiger skeleton

Look at some more animal skeletons on display in the Museum

So, what does your skeleton do? The bones in your skeleton act as anchors for all your muscles. Muscles work to pull your bones in different directions. Take the muscles in your arm. Like most muscles they work in pairs - as one expands (gets bigger) the other contracts (gets smaller) allowing you to move your arm around the elbow joint. Your skeleton also provides you with support and protection. Imagine the damage you could do to your brain if you didn't have a skull to protect it!

Move your mouse over the pictures to see the skeleton in action.

Muscles working in pairs The skull protects the brain Not all animals walk and run around as humans do - their skeletons have adapted to different forms of movement. Fish swim, their long flexible backs and strong fins allow them to glide through water easily. Frogs hop, their strong back legs and large feet help them jump. Birds fly, their 'arms' have turned into wings.

Some animals, like insects and crabs, have a completely different type of skeleton from ours - their skeletons are external (on the outside of their bodies). They are called invertebrates because they do not have a backbone made up of vertebrae. Some other invertebrates, like jellyfish, have no skeleton at all!

Can you think of other animals? How do they move?
How do you think their skeletons have changed to allow this movement?
Click on the pictures to find out more!

Moth             Tortoise             Snake

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