Vertebral column

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noun, plural: vertebral columns

The series of vertebrae that extend from the cranium to the coccyx, and serves as a flexible bony case for the spinal cord


The vertebral column, also called spinal column, is found in vertebrate animals. As the name implies, it is comprised of a series of vertebrae positioned in a column. It protects the spinal cord and provides structural support for vertebrates. The presence of a vertebral column is one of the distinctive features of vertebrates. Vertebrates are animals of the phylum Chordata with vertebral columns. Their vertebral columns arise from the notochord during the embryonic stages. The notochord has been replaced by a series of vertebrae with mobile joints in between. Those without vertebral column are called invertebrates.

Vertebrae are bones that make up the vertebral column. They may be identified based on their position in the vertebral column. For instance, those in the neck area are called cervical vertebrae. Vertebrae attached to the ribs are called thoracic vertebrae whereas those that are not attached to the ribs are called lumbar vertebrae. In humans, the vertebral column consists of seven cervical vertebrae, twelve thoracic vertebrae, five lumbar vertebrae, and nine lower vertebrae fused in the sacrum and the coccyx.


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