Bones and Calcium
|Time Required||Short (2-5 days)|
|Material Availability||Readily available|
|Cost||Very Low (under $20)|
AbstractWhy is your grandmother always wondering if you are drinking enough milk? Our bones are made out of calcium, a mineral found in milk, and drinking milk can lead to strong healthy bones. What about other animals? What are their bones made of? What kind of bones do they have? Are there animals without bones? Are endoskeletons and exoskeletons made out of the same materials?
ObjectiveIn this experiment you will explore the similarities and differences between bones and other hard parts from animals to determine which have properties similar to the calcium found in bones.
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Last edit date: 2017-07-28
Imagine what your body would be like without a skeleton. It would be too soft and squishy to stand up, and would not have the strength for walking or running. Our skeletons are very important for having large, muscular dynamic bodies that can move. Skeletons are important for a whole group of animals, called vertebrates, which like us have bones inside their bodies to support them.
Some of these vertebrates we like to eat: fish, chicken, beef and pork. Their bones are remarkably similar to ours, and are made out of the same mineral calcium. Calcium is important for other parts of the body as well, and vertebrates have found many ways to use calcium to build hard parts of the body like teeth or eggshells. All vertebrates use internal bony skeletons made out of calcium to support their bodies, but how do other animals support their bodies?
Other animals, called invertebrates, use many different strategies to support their body weight. Some invertebrates like earthworms have no hard body parts at all, and use a hydrostatic skeleton that supports the body using water pressure. Other invertebrates, like insects and crustaceans, have hard body parts on the outside of their bodies called an exoskeleton. A good example of this is a crab shell, a hard covering that both protects and supports the body of the crab. Other invertebrates make shells that partially enclose their body, like a snail shell. Some invertebrates, like sea urchins, even use their spiny skeletons for protection from predators.
What are these types of skeletons made of? Are bones and invertebrate exoskeletons made out of the same materials? One way to find out is to use another chemical that reacts with the calcium in bone to test if other hard body parts from other animals are also made out of calcium. You can use common household vinegar to react with the calcium found in bones. Will other animals have calcium in their hard parts too?
Terms and ConceptsTo do this type of experiment you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!
- 2000. "Yucky Lab Activities: Rubber Eggs and Funny Bones." Discovery Communications, Inc. Silver Spring, MD. 12/28/05. http://www.discoverykids.ca/gross/experiments/experimentsDetail.asp?id=66
- 2005. "Kids Health for Kids: The Big Story on Bones." The Nemours Foundation. Jacksonville, FL. 12/28/05. http://kidshealth.org/kid/body/bones_noSW.html
- Ott, Susan. 2004. "Bone Biology for Kids." 12/28/05. Department of Medicine, University of Washington. Seattle, WA. http://depts.washington.edu/bonebio/
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Materials and Equipment
- Hard parts of several different types of animals:
- Chicken bones
- Fish bones
- Crab claw
- Shrimp shells
- Sea urchin test
- Snail shells
- Fingernail clippings
Bones and Calcium
- Get several different types of materials to test from the hard parts from many different animal sources. Get as many different sources from as many different kinds of animals as you can. Use your imagination and the grocery store. Many grocery stores will give out soup bones for free.
- Place each sample in a cup and label the cup with a description of the material.
- Make initial observations of each sample. What does it feel like? What does it look like? Write down your observations in a data table as shown in table 1, focusing on the similarities and differences between materials.
|Material||Initial observation before treatment||Final observation after treatment|
- Pour vinegar into each cup until the sample is submerged, or covered, with vinegar.
- Let your cups sit at room temperature for several days. Check the cups once in a while to be sure that the vinegar is still covering the material in the cup. You may need to add more vinegar to the cup if necessary.
- Remove the samples from the vinegar and then observe the materials. How do they look and feel? How do the textures compare to before treatment with the vinegar?
- Write down your observations in a data table, focusing on the similarities and differences between materials.
- How do endoskeletons and exoskeletons compare? Did they react with the vinegar in a similar or different way? Do you think they are made out of similar or different materials?
If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:
Materials Scientist and EngineerWhat makes it possible to create high-technology objects like computers and sports gear? It's the materials inside those products. Materials scientists and engineers develop materials, like metals, ceramics, polymers, and composites, that other engineers need for their designs. Materials scientists and engineers think atomically (meaning they understand things at the nanoscale level), but they design microscopically (at the level of a microscope), and their materials are used macroscopically (at the level the eye can see). From heat shields in space, prosthetic limbs, semiconductors, and sunscreens to snowboards, race cars, hard drives, and baking dishes, materials scientists and engineers make the materials that make life better. Read more
BiologistLife is all around you in beauty, abundance, and complexity. Biologists are the scientists who study life in all its forms and try to understand fundamental life processes, and how life relates to its environment. They answer basic questions, like how do fireflies create light? Why do grunion fish lay their eggs based on the moon and tides? What genes control deafness? Why don't cancer cells die? How do plants respond to ultraviolet light? Beyond basic research, biologists might also apply their research and create new biotechnology. There are endless discoveries waiting to be found in the field of biology! Read more
Biomedical EngineerShakespeare described humans as a "piece of work," and others have called the body "the most beautiful machine," but like any machine, sometimes body parts need repairs or servicing when the body cannot take care of the problems itself. That's where biomedical engineers come in. They use engineering to solve problems in medicine, such as creating replacement body parts, drug-delivery systems, medical instruments, and test equipment. Their work helps restore health and function, and improves the quality of life for people who are sick or injured. Read more
- Bones are made out of calcium, which can be found in different forms in many vitamins and antacids. Try putting some calcium vitamins and different brands of antacids into a vinegar solution. Do they react similarly to the vinegar as bone?
- Some vertebrate bones have special adaptations. For example, the bones of birds are hollow to make them lighter for flight. Closely examine the bone of a chicken and you will notice tiny chambers in the middle of the bone. Chickens don't really fly, but they still have remnants of this type of bone structure. Examine the bones of some other birds from the store: turkey, quail, Cornish hen, goose or duck. What similarities do they all have? How are they different?
- One way to really clean off a skeleton is to boil the bones and then soak the skeleton in bleach. Try doing this with a quail, Cornish hen or small chicken. Can you put the skeleton back together?
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