The skeleton gives the vertebrate body shape, supports its weight, and protects soft parts such as nerves and blood vessels. It also offers a system of levers that, together with muscles, produce movement. Since mineralized parts of the skeleton often survive fossilization better than soft tissues, our most direct contact with long-extinct animals is through their skeletons. ‘The skeleton and its attachments’ describes the skeleton and the structures attached to it—starting from the deepest layer (bone), and progressing through joints, muscle, and tissue to the most superficial—skin. Problems in the development of the skeleton may result in congenital malformations such as spina bifida or achondroplasia.