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High abrasion resistance with sparse mineralization: Copper biomineral in worm jaws

Lichtenegger HC, Schoberl T, Bartl MH, Waite H, Stucky GD

298 (5592): 389-392 OCT 11 2002
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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 [Cu-2(OH)(3)Cl]. 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.

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