What Is the Difference Between Bone and Cartilage?

According to the University of Leeds Histology Guide, the connective tissue known as cartilage is made up of 75 percent water, as compared to 25 percent for bone. Cartilage is more flexible than bone and is avascular, whereas bone has a very good blood supply.

The University of Leeds Histology Guide states that both cartilage and bone are connective tissues, and are strong, flexible and semi-rigid. The differences between cartilage and bone are found in their cellular components as well as their functions. Cartilage has a higher water content and greater elasticity than bone, which allows the articular cartilage on the ends of long bones to compress, releasing water, and to aid in weight-bearing activity. Cartilage also forms a template for the growth and development of long bones, and is the supporting framework of some organs such as the nose, trachea, larynx, and bronchi, where it prevents airway collapse.

As the University of Leeds points out, bone is more rigid than cartilage. It makes up a structural framework for the body and provides attachment sites for muscles. It assists movement, stores calcium and phosphorous and protects internal organs such as the brain, heart and lungs. Blood cell production occurs in the bone marrow, and blood vessels within bone provide nourishment. In contrast, cartilage is avascular and is nourished through long-range diffusion from nearby capillaries. Bone is resistant to bending, twisting, compression and stretching. It is hard because it is calcified, though bone does contain collagen fibers that help it resist tensile stresses.