The spine is a long column of bones called vertebrae that run all the way along an animal’s back.
Most vertebrates have vertebrae made of bones.
Some, like sharks, have vertebrae of cartilage.
We can feel our vertebrae by running our hand down the back of our neck and between our shoulder blades.
Can you feel a row of hard, bony lumps?
They run all the way down to your bottom.
Every animal in the six classes of vertebrates - bony fish, cartilaginous fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals - has a spine or backbone.
What does the backbone do?The backbone has a very important job to do.
Every vertebra that makes up the backbone has a hole in the middle, and is joined to the next by a rubbery pad of cartilage.
The backbone is like a flexible, hollow tube. Through the middle of this tube runs the spinal cord.
The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that carries messages from a vertebrate’s brain to the rest of its body.
The spinal cord also carries information back from the body to the brain. The backbone protects this vital passageway of nerves.
Every animal in the six classes of vertebrates:
- bony fish,
- cartilaginous fish,
- birds, and
When the water is too hot, you quickly lift up your leg.
Your brain then receives a signal that the foot is now out of the water.
If you dip your foot into hot water, messages will race through your spinal cord and to your brain to say that the water is too hot and that it’s causing you pain.
Messages will then race back to your leg muscles to take your foot out of the water.
Imagine how busy the nerves in your backbone are!
Thousands of messages rush along them every second.
If the spinal cord gets damaged, these messages can’t get through. Sometimes, people who have injured their back can’t move certain parts of their body.