MEHAU KULYK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY MEHAU KULYK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Spinal vertebra. Historical artwork of a vertebra (spinal bone) seen from the side. The rear of the spine is at right. This is a lumbar vertebra, one from the lower back. There are 24 vertebra in the main spinal column. Each one consists of a block of bone (left) that carries the weight supported by the spine, plus protruding bits of bone called processes (right). The processes are where the back ligaments and muscles attach to the spine. There are five lumbar vertebrae, and, unlike the thoracic vertebrae, they do not have areas where ribs attach. The spinal cord (which is not shown) would pass down centre, between the main part of the vertebra and its processes.
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