Function of the Appendicular Skeleton


The appendicular skeleton is one of the two major divisions of the human skeleton, the other being the axial skeleton. It is composed of the bones of the upper and lower limbs, as well as the pectoral and pelvic girdles that attach these limbs to the axial skeleton. The function of the appendicular skeleton is crucial for movement, support, and protection of the body. In this article, we will explore the various functions of the appendicular skeleton in detail.

1. Support and Protection

The appendicular skeleton provides a framework that supports and protects the vital organs of the body. The bones of the upper limbs (arms) and lower limbs (legs) provide structural support, allowing us to stand, walk, run, and perform various movements. The pectoral girdle, consisting of the clavicle and scapula, supports the arms and provides attachment points for muscles involved in arm movements. Similarly, the pelvic girdle supports the lower limbs and provides attachment points for muscles involved in leg movements.

1.1 Upper Limbs

The bones of the upper limbs, including the humerus, radius, ulna, carpals, metacarpals, and phalanges, play a crucial role in allowing us to perform intricate tasks such as writing, grasping objects, and manipulating tools. These bones also protect the delicate structures of the hands and wrists, such as nerves and blood vessels.

1.2 Lower Limbs

The bones of the lower limbs, including the femur, tibia, fibula, tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges, provide support for the body’s weight and enable us to walk, run, jump, and perform various movements. These bones also protect important structures such as the knee joint and the foot’s arches, which absorb shock during locomotion.

2. Movement

The appendicular skeleton is responsible for facilitating movement in conjunction with the muscular system. The joints formed between the bones of the appendicular skeleton allow for a wide range of movements, from simple flexion and extension to complex rotations and circumductions.

2.1 Upper Limbs

The joints of the upper limbs, including the shoulder joint, elbow joint, wrist joint, and various finger joints, enable us to perform a vast array of movements. For example, the shoulder joint, a ball-and-socket joint, allows for abduction, adduction, flexion, extension, and rotation of the arm.

2.2 Lower Limbs

The joints of the lower limbs, including the hip joint, knee joint, ankle joint, and various toe joints, allow for movements such as walking, running, squatting, and kicking. The hip joint, a ball-and-socket joint, provides a wide range of movement and stability, enabling activities like dancing and martial arts.

Chapter 8 Appendicular Skeleton

3. Blood Cell Production

The appendicular skeleton, specifically the bones of the pelvis and the proximal ends of the femur and humerus, plays a vital role in the production of blood cells through a process called hematopoiesis. The red bone marrow contained within these bones produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

4. Mineral Storage

The appendicular skeleton serves as a reservoir for important minerals, particularly calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are stored in the bones and can be released into the bloodstream when needed to maintain proper levels in the body. Calcium is crucial for muscle function, blood clotting, and nerve signal transmission, while phosphorus is essential for energy metabolism and DNA synthesis.

5. Attachment Points for Muscles

The appendicular skeleton provides attachment points for muscles, allowing them to exert force and generate movement. Muscles attach to the bones via tendons, which are strong connective tissues. The arrangement of muscles and their attachments to the appendicular skeleton enable coordinated movement and control.

5.1 Upper Limbs

Various muscles in the upper limbs, such as the biceps brachii, triceps brachii, and deltoid, attach to the bones of the appendicular skeleton. These muscle attachments enable movements like flexion and extension of the arm, as well as rotation and abduction of the shoulder.

5.2 Lower Limbs

Similarly, muscles in the lower limbs, such as the quadriceps femoris, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius, attach to the bones of the appendicular skeleton. These muscle attachments enable movements like extension and flexion of the leg, as well as plantar flexion and dorsiflexion of the foot.


The appendicular skeleton plays a crucial role in providing support and protection, facilitating movement, producing blood cells, storing minerals, and providing attachment points for muscles. Without the functions of the appendicular skeleton, the human body would not be able to perform various activities and movements necessary for survival and daily life.

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