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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