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Bones Joints and muscles

The human skeleton consists of both fused and individual bones supported and supplemented by ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage. It serves as a scaffold which supports organs, anchors muscles, and protects organs such as the brain, lungs and heart.

The longest and heaviest bone in the body is the femur, and the smallest is the stapes bone in the middle ear. In an adult, the skeleton comprises around 20% of the total body weight.

Fused bones include those of the pelvis and the cranium. Not all bones are interconnected directly: There are 6 jnbones in the middle ear called the ossicles (three on each side) that articulate only with each other. The hyoid bone, which is located in the neck and serves as the point of attachment for the tongue, does not articulate with any other bones in the body, being supported by muscles and ligaments. Early in gestation, a foetus has a cartilaginous skeleton from which the long bones and most other bones gradually form throughout the remaining gestation period and for years after birth in a process called endochondral ossification. The flat bones of the skull and the clavicles are formed from connective tissue in a process known as intramembranous ossification, and ossification of the mandible occurs in the fibrous membrane covering the outer surfaces of Meckel's cartilages. At birth a newborn baby has approximately 300 bones, whereas on average an adult human has 206 bones (these numbers can vary slightly from individual to individual). The difference comes from a number of small bones that fuse together during growth, such as the sacrum and coccyx of the vertebral column. The sacrum (the bone at the base of the spine) consists of five bones which are separate at birth but fuse together into a solid structure in later years. An infant is born with zones of cartilage, called epiphyseal plates, between segments of bone to allow further growth. Growing is usually completed between ages 13 and 18, at which time the epiphyseal plates of long bones close allowing no further growth.

Muscle (from Latin musculus, diminutive of mus "mouse") is contractile tissue of the body and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. It is classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscle,  and its function is to produce force and cause motion, either locomotion or movement within internal organs. Much of muscle contraction occurs without conscious thought and is necessary for survival, like the contraction of the heart, or peristalsis (which pushes food through the digestive system). Voluntary muscle contraction is used to move the body, and can be finely controlled, like movements of the eye, or gross movements like the quadriceps muscle of the thigh. There are two broad types of voluntary muscle fibers, slow twitch and fast twitch. Slow twitch fibers contract for long periods of time but with little force while fast twitch fibers contract quickly and powerfully but fatigue very rapidly.

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