Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Vertebral Column

Backbone or spine; series of articulated bones (vertebrae) that surround and protect the spinal cord. The vertebral column forms the central axis of the skeleton. In primates, five vertebrae fuse to form the sacrum which becomes part of the pelvis. In adult humans, the four most inferior vertebrae are fused to form the coccyx; in other primates these four bones are part of the caudal vertebrae that form the tail. The human vertebral column reflects the bipedal adaptation in that it has four curves, which help redistribute the weight of the body over a center of gravity.

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From "Dictionary of Nursing and Individual Health Care"