In vertebrate anatomy, ribs (Latin: costae) are the long curved bones which form the rib cage. In most vertebrates, ribs surround the chest, enabling the lungs to expand and thus facilitate breathing by expanding the chest cavity. They serve to protect the lungs, heart, and other internal organs of the thorax. In some animals, especially snakes, ribs may provide support and protection for the entire body.
Humans have 24 ribs (12 pairs). The first seven sets of ribs, known as "true ribs", are directly attached to the sternum through the costal cartilage. Rib 1 is very unique and harder to distinguish from other ribs. It is a short, flat, C-shaped bone. The vertebral attachment can be found just below the neck and the majority of this bone can be found above the level of the clavicle. Ribs 2 through 7 have a more traditional appearance. The following five sets are known as "false ribs", three of these sharing a common cartilaginous connection to the sternum, while the last two (eleventh and twelfth ribs) are termed floating ribs (costae fluitantes) or vertebral ribs. They are attached to the vertebrae only, and not to the sternum or cartilage coming off of the sternum. Some people are missing one of the two pairs of floating ribs, while others have a third pair. Rib removal is the surgical excision of ribs for therapeutic or cosmetic reasons.
In general, human ribs increase in length from ribs 1 through 7 and decrease in length again through rib 12. Along with this change in size, the ribs become progressively oblique (slanted) from ribs 1 through 9, then less slanted through rib 12.
The ribcage is separated from the lower abdomen by the thoracic diaphragm which controls breathing. When the diaphragm contracts, the ribcage and thoracic cavity are expanded, reducing intra-thoracic pressure and drawing air into the lungs.
In other animals
In fish, there are often two sets of ribs attached to the vertebral column. One set, the dorsal ribs, are found in the dividing septum between the upper and lower parts of the main muscle segments, projecting roughly sideways from the vertebral column. The second set, of ventral ribs arise from the vertebral column just below the dorsal ribs, and enclose the lower body, often joining at the tips. Not all species possess both types of rib, with the dorsal ribs being most commonly absent. Sharks, for example, have no dorsal ribs, and only very short ventral ribs, while lampreys have no ribs at all. In some teleosts, there may be additional rib-like bones within the muscle mass.
Tetrapods, however, only ever have a single set of ribs which are probably homologous with the dorsal ribs of fishes. In the early tetrapods, every vertebra bore a pair of ribs, although those on the thoracic vertebrae are typically the longest. The sacral ribs were stout and short, since they formed part of the pelvis, connecting the backbone to the hip bones.
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