The simplest way to put it is that osteology is the study of skeletal anatomy, whether it be specific to the human skeletal anatomy or any other animal’s skeletal system. It deals in anything having to do with bones: structure, function, growth, pathology, decay, trauma and healing, individual bones, the evolution of bones, et cetera. That means that, while it really is a subset of the overall study of anatomy, osteology really can be considered a subfield of many disciplines, depending on why you’re studying it.
Osteology can be considered a subfield of anthropology, if one is studying the human (as well as nonhuman primate and/or hominid) skeleton for the purposes of archaeology or palaeoanthropology. I plan to go into bioarchaeology and am very interested in how the health and nutrition of an individual is detailed in their bones, so I should be quite comfortable with the human musculoskeletal system. I need to know how to determine other factors like age, growth as they aged, and any history of disease or trauma to the bones. I will also need to know how to re-articulate (or, put back together) a skeleton, because bones can get quite jumbled up over time, especially when they’re just hanging out underground.
In forensic science and bioarchaeology, it is important to look at human remains with both the naked eye and under the microscope in order to determine things like biological sex (not gender, though that can be inferred through a variety of ways), age, cause of death, and how old the bones themselves are.
Human skeletons are studied for the medical practice of orthopedics, which is the basically osteology in action with live patients. An orthopedic surgeon deals with a wide range of things, from knee arthroplasty (replacement) to congenital bone disorders like osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease).
Osteology is studied for a variety of things, like archaeology, forensic science, and medicine, but it’s also studied for things like biophysics, fine arts (for drawing human and animal forms), osteopathy, kinesiology, massage therapy, evolutionary biology, developmental biology, and a bunch of other stuff. It’s a study with a multitude of applications.
- by “miked”
I really dig these sketches. The figures all a bit off and a little goofy but the composition is well thought out. They have character and I like that.
(Source: Urban Sketchers)
I feel like the orangutan is judging me…
but I kinda like it.
orang b judgin’
The stapes (stirrup) is the smallest and lightest bone in the body. The stapes is the connection between the middle and inner ears. The head of the stapes connects to the incus and the footplate rest within the oval window of the cochlea. It is the third ossicle of the middle ear and part of the auditory system that transduces sound energy into mechanical energy and finally, electrical energy.
Poorly-healed break, perhaps?
- by Jonathan Samir Matthis and Brett R. Fajen
“How do humans achieve such remarkable energetic efficiency when walking over complex terrain such as a rocky trail? Recent research in biomechanics suggests that the efficiency of human walking over flat, obstacle-free terrain derives from the ability to exploit the physical dynamics of our bodies. In this study, we investigated whether this principle also applies to visually guided walking over complex terrain. We found that when humans can see the immediate foreground as little as two step lengths ahead, they are able to choose footholds that allow them to exploit their biomechanical structure as efficiently as they can with unlimited visual information. We conclude that when humans walk over complex terrain, they use visual information from two step lengths ahead to choose footholds that allow them to approximate the energetic efficiency of walking in flat, obstacle-free environments” (read more/open access).
- Raichlen Lab, University of Arizona Tuscscon
- Dinwall, Hatala, Wunderlich and Richmond. 2013. “Hominin stature, body mass, and walking speed estimates based on 1.5 million year old fossil footprints at Ileret, Kenya” Journal of Archaeological Science 13. (see my post)
- Benett et al. 2013. “Does footprint depth correlate with foot motion and pressure,” Journal of the Royal Society Interface 10(20130009): 1742-5662 (see my post).
- Bennett et al. 2009. “Early Hominin Foot Morphology Based on 1.5 Million Year Old Footprints from Ileret, Kenya,” Science 323:1197-1201
First of two for an anatomy assignment.
Leonardo da Vinci | The Mechanics of Man
Hadar hominin fossils assembled for comparative study at Cleveland Museum of Natural History, circa 1979. The A.L. 333 sample occupies the largest area at the center between ‘‘Lucy’’ and Hamann-Todd collection chimpanzee skulls; casts of the Laetoli hominins are at lower left.
(Text and top image source: Kimbel, W.H. and Delezene, L.K. 2009.”‘‘Lucy’’ Redux: A Review of Research on Australopithecus afarensis” in Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 52:2-48; bottom image: Dartmouth College)
i want to know more about osteological correlates
osteological correlates from what i understand are the physiological traces in the bones of an animal that hint toward the existence of special soft tissue structures like trunks or fat deposits or complex arrangements of feathers
i want to know about how that works in extant animals so i can synthesize that and use it to imagine extinct animals better
Elen, I know you are a human bones person but can you shed any light on this?
There are two levels to morphological/osteological correlates. The first is gross anatomy. We can see based on analogous structures in extant animals how the extinct one likely functioned in a broad sense. Wings, obviously, are going to be an osteological correlate of flight or at least phylogenetic history of it. Long, opposable thumbs are a morphological correlate of enhanced manipulatory abilities. A foramen magnum located centrally in the basicranium is a morphological correlate of bipedalism. A dedicated quadruped is going to have a shoulder configuration with restricted range of motion because little more than flexion and extension is needed and restricting ROM improves joint stability. We might infer from an enlarged, pneumatised hyoid that an animal was capable of making one hell of a racket at all hours of the day!
The second level is muscle markers left on bone. The idea is that particular muscles are being regularly and strongly recruited, generating recognisable periosteal markers that can be readily identified as being linked to particular behaviours or anatomical structures. This can be tricky because most muscles are regularly recruited by a variety of actions and movements. It’s difficult to pin down any one rugose insertion site as being linked to any one behaviour unless the behaviour in question is very specific or highly specialised and leaves distinctive traces. Habitual throwing and tool use are a couple of human examples.
To my knowledge, you can’t infer the existence of feathers from bones because they’re firmly rooted in the ‘soft tissue’ side of things. Unless that’s preserved also, you’re not really going to know. Having said that, you might be able to infer whether an animal was capable of flight based on bone density or trabecular/cancellous bone composition in the absence of wing preservation. As for trunks, I think it’s much the same deal unless there are specialised cranial structures associated with that (I do know elephants don’t have any nasal bones).
Followers, do you have anything to add? Or, if you disagree with anything I’ve said. :)
This doesn’t have to do with osteological correlates, exactly, but you *can* determine the arrangement/presence of flight feathers, because they’re anchored almost directly to the bone and they leave notches.
But the knobs might not always be clearly visible, especially with smaller feathers, nonflying birds, etc.
Aha! More accurate information on bird feathers. Thank you!