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Dorsal vs. Posterior: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
Dorsal refers to the upper side or back of an organism, while Posterior denotes the rear or tail end.
Dorsal vs. Posterior

Key Differences

Dorsal refers to the back or upper side of an organism, particularly in animals, aligning with the spine or backbone. In contrast, Posterior denotes the rear or hind part of the body, indicating the opposite end from the head or front. While the dorsal side is consistently associated with the upper side in creatures like fish or humans, the posterior part can vary depending on the organism's orientation and movement direction.
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In human anatomy, the dorsal aspect typically corresponds to the backside of the body, involving structures like the spinal column. Conversely, the posterior aspect of a human refers to the back of the body but specifically includes parts like the buttocks and the back of the legs. The dorsal term is more commonly used in zoology and less in human anatomy, whereas the posterior is widely used in describing human and animal anatomical positions.
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The dorsal side of an organism is often adapted for protection, as seen in the dorsal fins of fish or the tough skin on the back of reptiles. The posterior part, however, is more related to movement and support, such as the muscles in the human buttocks. This highlights how the dorsal aspect is more about structural alignment along the top side, while the posterior aspect focuses on the rear end functionality.
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In the context of directional orientation, dorsal is always relative to the spine or top surface, regardless of the organism's stance. Posterior, on the other hand, is relative to the forward movement direction, signifying the tail end or back part of the body. Thus, in a quadruped like a dog, the dorsal surface is the top, running from head to tail, while the posterior includes the tail end of the animal.
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In medical and biological terminologies, 'dorsal' and 'posterior' serve to provide clear, unambiguous descriptions of location and orientation. The dorsal aspect is synonymous with 'back' in many creatures, signifying an evolutionary adaptation for protection and structural integrity. Meanwhile, the posterior aspect, often synonymous with 'rear,' pertains to body parts located towards the back end, associated with locomotion and support, especially in bipedal organisms like humans.
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Comparison Chart

Anatomical Reference

Refers to the back or upper side, aligned with the spine.
Refers to the rear or hind part, opposite the front or head.
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Usage in Anatomy

Common in zoology, less in human anatomy.
Widely used in both human and animal anatomy.
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Relative Orientation

Always relative to the spine or top surface.
Relative to the forward movement direction, indicating the tail end or back.
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Associated Functions

Often adapted for protection (e.g., dorsal fins in fish).
Related to movement and support (e.g., muscles in the human buttocks).
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Application in Organisms

Used in describing both bipedal and quadrupedal creatures, with focus on the upper side.
Used in describing the rear in both bipedal and quadrupedal organisms, focusing on the end opposite to movement direction.
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Example in Human Anatomy

Less frequently used; however, it can refer to structures along the back like the spine.
Commonly refers to parts like the back of the legs and the buttocks.
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Dorsal and Posterior Definitions

Dorsal

Relating to the top side in contrast to the bottom side.
The dorsal surface of the tongue is covered in taste buds.
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Posterior

Situated behind or at the rear of another part.
The posterior garden was more shaded and cooler.
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Dorsal

Oriented away from the ground or baseline.
The lizard displayed vibrant colors along its dorsal skin.
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Posterior

Chronologically later or following in order.
The posterior chapters of the book were more engaging.
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Dorsal

Located on the backside of an object or structure.
The dorsal area of the leaf is green and rough.
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Posterior

Pertaining to the rear or back part of a structure.
The posterior section of the airplane is reserved for cargo.
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Dorsal

In reference to the upper side or back in anatomical terms.
Injuries to the dorsal spine can be particularly severe.
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Posterior

Located towards the back end of an organism.
The horse's posterior muscles are highly developed.
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Dorsal

(Anatomy) Of, toward, on, in, or near the back or upper surface of an organ, part, or organism.
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Posterior

In anatomy, relating to the backside or rear part.
Posterior knee pain can be a symptom of various conditions.
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Dorsal

(Botany) Of or on the surface of an organ or part facing away from the axis; abaxial.
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Posterior

Located behind a part or toward the rear of a structure.
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Dorsal

With respect to, or concerning the side in which the backbone is located, or the analogous side of an invertebrate.
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Posterior

Relating to the caudal end of the body in quadrupeds or the back of the body in humans and other primates.
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Dorsal

(anatomy) Relating to the top surface of the foot or hand.
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Posterior

(Botany) Next to or facing the main stem or axis.
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Dorsal

Produced using the dorsum of the tongue.
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Posterior

Coming after in order; following.
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Dorsal

Having only one sharp side.
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Posterior

Following in time; subsequent.
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Dorsal

(botany) Relating to the surface naturally inferior, as of a leaf.
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Posterior

The buttocks.
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Dorsal

(botany) Relating to the surface naturally superior, as of a creeping hepatic moss.
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Posterior

(anatomy) Nearer the rear or hind end; nearer the caudal end of the body in quadrupeds or the dorsal end in bipeds.
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Dorsal

(art) A hanging, usually of rich stuff, at the back of a throne, altar, etc.
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Posterior

(medicine) Relating to or denoting presentation of a fetus in which the rear or caudal end is nearest the cervix and emerges first at birth.
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Dorsal

Any of the longitudinal series of plates that encircle the body, excluding the ventral scales.
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Posterior

(botany) Next to, or facing the main stem or axis.
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Dorsal

(linguistics) A sound produced using the dorsum of the tongue.
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Posterior

(formal) Following in order or in time.
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Dorsal

Pertaining to, or situated near, the back, or dorsum, of an animal or of one of its parts; notal; tergal; neural; as, the dorsal fin of a fish; the dorsal artery of the tongue; - opposed to ventral.
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Posterior

The hinder parts of the body.
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Dorsal

Pertaining to the surface naturally inferior, as of a leaf.
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Posterior

(maths) The probability that a hypothesis is true (calculated by Bayes' theorem).
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Dorsal

A hanging, usually of rich stuff, at the back of a throne, or of an altar, or in any similar position.
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Posterior

Later in time; hence, later in the order of proceeding or moving; coming after; - opposed to prior.
Hesiod was posterior to Homer.
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Dorsal

Belonging to or on or near the back or upper surface of an animal or organ or part;
The dorsal fin is the vertical fin on the back of a fish and certain marine mammals
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Posterior

Situated behind; hinder; - opposed to anterior.
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Dorsal

Facing away from the axis of an organ or organism;
The abaxial surface of a leaf is the underside or side facing away from the stem
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Posterior

At or toward the caudal extremity; caudal; - in human anatomy often used for dorsal.
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Posterior

On the side next the axis of inflorescence; - said of an axillary flower.
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Posterior

The fleshy part of the human body that you sit on;
He deserves a good kick in the butt
Are you going to sit on your fanny and do nothing?
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Posterior

A tooth situated at the back of the mouth
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Posterior

At or near the hind end in quadrupeds or toward the spine in primates
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Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is posterior the same as dorsal?

No, posterior refers to the rear end, while dorsal to the upper side.
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Can dorsal be used for humans?

Yes, it can refer to the back side of the human body.
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What does dorsal mean?

Dorsal refers to the upper or back side of an organism.
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How is dorsal used in marine biology?

It describes the backside of marine creatures, like a shark's fin.
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Are dorsal and ventral opposites?

Yes, dorsal is the back, while ventral refers to the belly side.
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What is the opposite of posterior?

Anterior, referring to the front or forward part.
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Can posterior be used in a non-anatomical context?

Yes, it can describe the rear part of any object or concept.
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Are dorsal surfaces always external?

Typically, but it can also refer to internal top surfaces.
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What is the posterior part of the body?

The posterior part is the rear or backside of the body.
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Does posterior relate to time?

It can, denoting something occurring later or after.
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What's an example of a posterior body part?

The buttocks are an example of a posterior body part.
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Can a building have a posterior part?

Yes, referring to its rear or back section.
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Are dorsal fins exclusive to sharks?

No, many aquatic animals have dorsal fins.
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Is the spine dorsal or posterior?

The spine is considered dorsal in position.
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Is the term posterior used in architecture?

Yes, to describe the rear part of structures.
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Do plants have a dorsal side?

Yes, it refers to the upper side of leaves or stems.
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What's a dorsal position in medical terms?

It refers to lying on the back.
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Does posterior always refer to the body's rear?

Primarily, but it can also indicate a back part of an object.
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Can dorsal refer to direction?

Yes, indicating a direction towards the back or upper side.
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Is posterior used in geographical contexts?

Rarely, but it can describe the backside of geographical features.
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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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