Introduction to the Structure, Function, and Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrae and the Intervertebral Disc

  • Irving M. ShapiroEmail author
  • Makarand V. Risbud


The goal of this introductory chapter is to provide an overview of the design, evolution, and basic characteristics of the disc and the vertebrae that comprise the human spine. As with any survey, the state of current knowledge reflects the work of earlier cohorts of individuals whose insightful observations relied almost entirely on observation, argument, and inductive reasoning. Over the centuries, sequential observations by men like Aristotle, Vesalius, Hunter, and Winslow have all contributed to understanding how the oversized human head can restrictively swivel on the multiple bones of the vertebrate spine and in doing so provide our species with its huge biological advantage.


Intervertebral Disc Nucleus Pulposus Annulus Fibrosus Thoracic Vertebra Axial Skeleton 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Dr. Chris Keppler for the radiographs shown in Fig. 1.2, the Smithsonian Institution for the permission to reproduce the image of Pikaia (Box 1.1), Scanco Medical for the use of the microCT image shown in Fig. 1.5, and F. Michael Angelo, MA, for use of the plates shown in Figs. 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, and 1.4. Lastly, the authors wish to thank the NIH and NIAMS for the ongoing support through grants AR050087 and AR055655.


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© Springer-Verlag Wien 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Graduate Program in Cell and Developmental BiologyJefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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