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Copper-based biomineralization discovery

Geoff Read g.read at niwa.co.nz
Wed Oct 23 01:42:23 EST 2002

Hi folks,

When annelid investigations make it into the journals Science or Nature it is 
sometimes occasion to wonder if the editors had an off day. No such 
misgivings with this solid effort in the "Science" issue of 11 October.  

There is a commentary:

Weiner, S. ; Addadi, L. 2002: At the cutting edge. Science 298: 375-376.

"The ability of living systems to form many different minerals has attracted 
the attention of biologists and materials scientists alike for decades. But the 
field is still good for surprises. In their Perspective, Weiner and Addadi 
highlight the report by Lichtenegger et al ., who show that the teeth of the 
marine bloodworm Glycera contain a copper mineral. This mineral, which 
may give the teeth of their worms their extraordinary resistance to abrasion, 
is the first copper mineral known to form under controlled conditions in an 

And the report itself:

Lichtenegger, H. C.; Schöberl, T.; Bartl, M. H.; Waite, H. ; Stucky, G. D. 2002: 
High abrasion resistance with sparse mineralization: copper biomineral in 
worm jaws. Science 298: 389-392.  

"Biominerals are widely exploited to harden or stiffen tissues in living 
organisms, with calcium-, silicon-, and iron-based minerals being most 
common. In notable contrast, the jaws of the marine bloodworm Glycera 
dibranchiata contain the copper-based biomineral atacamite [Cu2(OH)3Cl]. 
Polycrystalline fibers are oriented with the outer contour of the jaw. Using 
nanoindentation, we show that the mineral has a structural role and 
enhances hardness and stiffness. Despite the low degree of mineralization, 
bloodworm jaws exhibit an extraordinary resistance to abrasion, significantly 
exceeding that of vertebrate dentin and approaching that of tooth enamel."  

  Geoff Read <g.read at niwa.co.nz>

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