A strange mollusk, affectionately known as the “wandering meatloaf,” has teeth made of a rare the iron mineral, previously only found along rocky coasts, according to a new study.
Researchers have detected the rare iron ore – called santabarbaraite – in the teeth of the rock-grazing mollusk Cryptochiton stelleri, nicknamed the “wandering meatloaf” because it looks like one with its oval-shaped, reddish-brown shelled body, up to 14 inches long (36 centimeters).
The discovery sheds light on how C. stelleri can scrape food from rocks, the researchers said. ” [Santabarbaraite] has a high water content, which makes it solid with low density. We think it might harden the teeth without adding a lot of weight, ”says lead author Derk Joester, associate professor at science materials and engineering at Northwestern University in Illinois, said in a press release.
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The wandering meatloaf, which also bears the names Giant pacific chiton and giant chiton on rubber foot, is the largest known species of chiton, a marine mollusk with an oval, flattened body that has a shell made of overlapping plates, much like a bedbug. Chitons are known for their remarkably hard teeth, which are attached to their soft, flexible tongue-shaped radula. While looking for food, chitons scratch their tooth-covered radula on rocks, in order to catch algae and other food.
Joester and his colleagues had previously studied chiton teeth, but they wanted to learn more about the stylet – the hollow structure that looks like the root of a human tooth, and that “connects the [chitons’] Ultra-hard, rigid tooth head with flexible radula membrane, ”the researchers wrote in the study. They did it by analyzing C. stellerichompers with some high techniques technology, including a synchrotron light source and transmission electron microscopy.
These analyzes revealed santabarbaraite in the upper stylet of the chiton. “This mineral has only been observed in geological specimens in very small quantities and has never been seen before in a biological setting,” said Joester.
The discovery shows how this strange meatloaf uses its entire tooth, not just the ultra-hard, durable cup, to collect food, the researchers said.
Next, the team attempted to recreate the chemical makeup of the stylus with ink designed for 3D printing. The study’s first author, Linus Stegbauer, a former postdoctoral fellow in Joester’s lab, developed the ink with iron and phosphate ions mixed with a biopolymer derived from the teeth of the chiton. Stegbauer, who is now a senior researcher at the Institute for Interfacial Process Engineering and Plasma Technology at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and his colleagues found that the experiment worked – the ink printed ultra-hard materials, rigid and durable, as long as scientists mixed immediately before printing.
“As the nanoparticles are formed in the biopolymer, it gets stronger and more viscous, ”said Joester. This mixture can then be easily used for printing. Subsequent air drying results in the final hard and rigid material. ”
The study was published online Monday May 31 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Originally posted on 45Secondes.fr.
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