Q. How many bones in the human body?
A. 206!! they all cry with confidence.
Counting Dem Bones practical from a stop gap to a written-in-the-manual item for all 1st Year cell biologists. We've also found Bob the Skeleton in a dusty cupboard and have that as a resource for the exercise. Most of the ribs on Bob's left side have been replaced with PVC tubing and he is festooned with gobs of ancient glue and crumbly sellotape which have long since ceased to hold him together. It was good fun, getting the folks to think a little and realise that it's quite hard to find where the '206' comes from or is comprised of. One of the key realisations was that, in 206-land, the sacrum and coccyx at the base of the spine are considered 2 bones not the 5 and 4 bones which a cursory examination [L above]reveals them to be. There is indeed a good bit of inter-personal variability here as to the amount of bone fusion and even as to how many bits are present.
is higher variable between people. Other examples of human osteo-polymorphism in my earlier piece. Why aren't they included in the 206? They are a lot bigger than the ear-bones. Indeed, there should be N=4 ear-bones as the lenticular process of the incus is a teeny-tiny sesamoid bone with a separate developmental origin. Sesamoid bones got a brief pulse of press in 1980 when an extension of the radial sesamoid got tribbed in Stephen J. Gould's [previously] famous essay The Panda's Thumb and the book of the same name.
The count of bones is thus arbitrary and capricious and very bad science until you get under the covers with Bob the Skeleton. When the Quiz-master asserts that N=206 you are well within your rights to cry "It depends what you mean by . . .".