The Total Number of Bones in the Human Body


How many bones, in total, are in the human body?

Picture showing the number of bones in the full-grown human body. Infants have over 270.

Most agree that an adult full-grown human has 206 distinct bones. However, this number may vary to a slight degree depending on individual interpretation. For example, some sources indicate that there are 208 bones if you consider the three sternum sections. The problem is that depending on how much the bones have fused together it may be difficult to actually distinguish three sternum bones. Since they are not always distinguishable in a large number of cases its best to count the sternum as just one bone. Therefore, you arrive at 206 bones and not 208. Variation also exists with the sacrum and coccyx so it’s best to just count each as one.

The number of bones in small children

From the moment we are born our cranial bones begin to ossify (join together and become set). They begin interlocking at the sutures by about the age of two. That is why babies and small children will begin life with more bones in their bodies (over 270) compared to a full-grown adult. As you grow your bones begin to fuse together and that’s how you end up with fewer bones in adulthood. Bones continue to grow even past the age of twenty. This is primarily the case for the facial region due to the continued emergence of teeth.

Fun Fact: Human Osteology = The study of bones and teeth.


The purpose of bones

The skeleton forms the framework for the human body and performs some very important functions like support (provides a framework for the body), protection (covers vital organs, e.g. sternum, ribs), hematopoiesis (vital role in generating blood cells) and storage (stores minerals the body needs). The skeleton is held together by flexible tissues consisting of cartilage and ligaments.

Bone NamesNumber of Bones
Cranial Bones (cranium) skull
ethmoid bone (1), frontal bone (1), occipital bone (1), parietal bones (2), sphenoid bone (1), temporal (2)
8
Facial Skeleton
inferior nasal conchae (2), Lacrimal (2), mandible (1), maxillae (2), nasal bones (2), palatine bones (2), vomer (1) zygomatic (2)
14
Ossicles (auditory ossicles) middle ear
malleus (2), incus (2), stapes (2), aka. hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
6
Hyoid bone (lingual bone) neck1
section total29
Cervical vertebrae (C1 to C7)7
Thoracic vertebrae (Th1 to Th12)12
Lumbar vertebrae (L1 to L5)5
Sacrum (counted as 1 but ranges from 4-6 and with age variation)1
Coccyx (counted as 1 but ranges from 3-5)1
section total26
Ribs24
Sternum (3 sections counted as 1)1
Clavicle2
Scapula2
section total29
Humerus2
Radius2
Ulna2
section total6
Carpals16
Metacarpals10
Phalanges28
section total54
Hip bone2
section total2
Femur2
Patella2
Tibia2
Fibula2
section total8
Tarsals14
Metatarsals10
Phalanges28
section total52
grand total206

References:

Forensic Anthropology, P.Brn, pp.49-51
Illustration, creative commons
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coccyx