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Feb 08, 2023

Pharyngeal Arches Anatomy

Pharyngeal arches are an important must-read topic for NEET PG exam preparation as they are a fundamental aspect of human anatomy and developmental biology. Pharyngeal arches have significant implications in the formation of head and neck structures. Therefore, it is essential to have a good understanding of the topic.

Read this blog further to get a quick overview of this important anatomy topic.


Pharyngeal arches are embryonic structures that develop in the neck region of vertebrate embryos and give rise to various structures in the head and neck such as the jaw, larynx, inner ear and part of the face. 

  • 6 u shaped arches 
  • Around pharynx 
  • Develops from neural crest cells 
  • 5th arch become rudimentary in humans 
  • 1 arch has
    • Upper maxillary process 
    • Lower mandibular process 


Here is a summary of the skeletal elements derived from each pharyngeal arch:

Here is a summary of the skeletal elements derived from each pharyngeal arch:

1st ARCH 

2nd ARCH

3rd ARCH

4th ARCH

6th ARCH

Meckel’s cartilage 


Laryngeal Cartilages 

Mandible Bone 

Upper hyoid Bone 

Lower hyoid Bone 




  • NCCs → Mandible, Hyoid 
  • Paraxial mesoderm → PAM’s (Pharyngeal arch muscles) E.g. muscles of mastication
    4th Arch → Thyroid cartilage
    Epiglottis cartilage 
  • 6th ARCH
    • Cricoid 
    • Arytenoid 
    • Corniculate 
    • Cuneiform 

Also Read: Development of the Nervous System - NEET PG Anatomy

NEET PG Question Bank


The pharyngeal arches also give rise to various cranial nerves, which are responsible for controlling the muscles and sensation in the head and neck. Here is a summary of the cranial nerves derived from each pharyngeal arch:

  • 1st ARCH → mandibular division of trigeminal nerve 
  • 2nd ARCH → Facial nerve 
  • 3rd ARCH       CN 9 
  • 4th ARCH CN 10
  • 6th ARCH CN 11 (cranial part)


  • 1st ARCH → V2 

→ Chorda tympani nerve of facial nerve (1st Pre-trematic N.)

  • 2nd ARCH → Tympanic branch of glossopharyngeal nerve 
Derivatives of the pharyngeal arches 
Arch no. Nerve Embryonic Cartilage NCCs/Mesoderm Mesoderm (Muscles Misc. Artery
1CN V2 Quadrate /Meckel’s Maxilla Mandible (GT) Incus Malleus Anterior ligament of malleus Sphenomandibular ligamentTensor tympani Tensor veli palatini  Muscles of mastication Mylohyoid Anterior belly digastricAnterior 2/3 of tongueMaxillary (transitory)
2CN VII Reichert’s Stapes Styloid processStylohyoid ligament Lesser horn and upper part of body of hyoid bone Stapedius Stylohyoid Facial muscles (incl. Buccinator/Platysma, Auricular, occipitofrontalis)Posterior belly digastric Stapedial/Hyoid artery (transitory)
3CN IX Greater horn and lower part of body of hyoid Stylopharyngeus Posterior 1/3 of tongue Common carotid artery internal carotid artery (first part)

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