For those who don’t know this already, the fact that baby have more bones than adults might come as a big surprise. Your shock is pretty certain!!
Have ever held a baby in your arms? You would probably be amazed how soft their bodies are. It seems almost unbelievable that those small limbs, head, and torso could house more bones than the body of an adult. Adults also incline to feel quite ‘bony’, so this fact is surely a weird one.
Why do adults tend to have fewer bones than babies?
Where do the extra bones go?
A baby is born with around 300 bones, whereas an adult has 206 bones. The reason behind this is ascribed to cartilage. Cartilage is a rubber-like padding that covers and shields the ends of long bones at the joints. It is a smooth, elastic tissue that can be readily found in the ears, rib cage, nose and other parts of the body. Cartilage is neither as strong as bone nor as flexible as muscle. There are 3 different types of Cartilage; Elastic cartilage is found in the external ear flaps and in parts of the larynx, Hyaline cartilage is found in the nose, ears, trachea, parts of the larynx, and smaller respiratory tubes, while Fibrous cartilage is found in the spine and the menisci.
Babies are less bony for a good reason because if they were fully “hard”, it would make delivery almost impossible. Infants bodies need to be extremely soft and limber so that they can be born easily. The following image shows transformation of a cartilage into a bone (Image Source: Wikipedia.org)
There are a numerous signs on our body that justify why there is such a difference in the number of bones in babies and adults. For instance the ‘soft spot’ on babies’ heads you have probably been told not to press it, as it might deform the baby’s head or cause internal injuries. However, as the baby grows, that soft spot vanishes!
This happens because the different small bone segments merge together over time to form fewer bones, but they are larger and stronger. Therefore, if a baby’s skull (at 1 or 2 years of age) has 8 tiny bony segments, that number will decrease to 4 when the baby becomes an adult.