Looking Inside Bone – 75 Informal Points (& 2 Formal for Bone Dissection) Introduction

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Looking Inside Bone – 75 Informal Points (& 2 Formal for Bone Dissection)


Bones are a remarkable example of engineering, combining lightness, flexibility and incredible strength. Bone provides a tough, flexible frame for the human machine. Pound for pound, bone is actually stronger than concrete. But remember, bone is living tissue. Cells and protein fibers are wrapped inside layers of hard mineral salts. These cells are hard at work, constantly remodeling and replacing old or damaged bone. Blood vessels and nerves bring needed nutrients and signals to the cells in this hard matrix. All of these structural components allow bone to withstand tremendous amounts of stress and protects the internal organs from damage and injury.

To understand how bone is able to protect our body, we must look at the anatomy of this calcified tissue. How does the structure of bone relate to its ability to withstand stress? In this activity, you will dissect a long bone and observe the key structures that contribute to bone’s unique architecture. You will then look deeper into the chemical structure of this tissue as you view prepared slides of both compact and spongy bone.


  1. Research the four main types of bone – long, short, flat and irregular. Fill in the table below with your findings.

Bone Type




Hard, dense (compact) bones that provide strength, structure, and mobility.



Bones that are as wide as they are long. They provide support and stability with little to no movement.

Patella, Tarsus


Serve various purposes in the body, such as protection of nervous tissue (such as the vertebrae protect the spinal cord), affording multiple anchor points for skeletal muscle attachment (as with the sacrum), and maintain pharynx and trachea support, and tongue attachment (such as the hyoid bone)

Examples given in blue

  1. Use the internet to help you research and then identify the external features of long bone listed below. Fill in the table with your findings.

External Bone Feature



Spongy cancellous bone covered by a thin layer of compact bone.


The main part, or shaft, of a long bone. It usually contains the one marrow and adipose tissue (fat.)


Firm, yet soft and flexible connective tissue found between bones or between bones and joints.


Dense, fibrous, membrane covering the surface of a bone.

Compact (Cortical) Bone

Solid bone with only tiny spaces.

Spongy (Cancellous) Bone

A network of irregularly shaped sheets of bone (trabeculae). The trabeculae are only a few cell layers thick. The spaces between the trabeculae contain the bone marrow.

Medullary Cavity

The central cavity of a bone shaft where the red bone marrow and yellow bone marrow (adipose tissue (fat)) is stored; also known as the marrow cavity.

Red Bone Marrow

Bone marrow where red blood cells, platelets and most of the white blood cells are made.

Yellow Bone Marrow

Some white blood cells are made here, but the yellow bone marrow is mostly fat (adipose tissue)

  1. In the space below draw a cross section of a bone. Include and label all parts listed in the table in #3.

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