Bone Development

Most bones develop from cartilage, a tough but flexible connective tissue. In the second month of fetal development, much of the skeleton is made of cartilage. During the third month, osteocytes begin to develop and release minerals that lodge in the spaces between the cartilage cells, turning the cartilage to bone. The process by which cartilage is slowly replaced by bone as a result of the deposition of minerals is called ossification (AHS-uh-fuh-KAY-shuhn). Most fetal cartilage is eventually replaced by bone. However, some cartilage remains, lending flexibility to the areas between bones, at the end of the nose, in the outer ear, and along the inside of the trachea.

A few bones, such as some parts of the skull, develop directly into hard bone without forming cartilage first. In these cases, the osteocytes are initially scattered randomly throughout the embryonic connective tissue but soon fuse into layers and become flat plates of bone. In the skull, suture lines can be seen where the plates of bone meet.

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