Next time you have an unlucky encounter with a crab's pinchers, consider that the claw tips may be reinforced with bromine-rich biomaterial 1.5 times harder than acrylic glass and extremely fracture resistant, says a University of Oregon scientist.
Residents on the U.S. West Coast may have had close encounters with the biomaterial -- detailed by a seven-member team in a paper published online in advance of regular publication in the Journal of Structural Biology. The translucent substance empowers the claw tips of the striped (or lined) shore crab (Pachygrapsus cassipes) as the pinchers pick and hold prey. It also is present on the walking legs of Dungeness crabs (Cancer magister), a dining delicacy in the Pacific Northwest.
"The types of crabs that use this trick for their claw tips rely on the tips fitting together like forceps in order to pick and hold bits of food, and fracture damage could make the tips useless," said the study's lead author Robert Schofield, a researcher in the UO physics department. "These crabs include many common crabs such as hermit crabs, which have one large claw for crushing, and a small claw tipped with this newly discovered biomaterial for finer work."
The claws of the Dungeness crab, he noted, are designed for crushing instead of fine manipulations, and are not tipped with this material. But their legs are, he said.
"The next time you are eating a Dungeness crab, notice that the sharp tip of the leg is a cap of translucent material that is very different from the rest of the crab," he said. "Notice how difficult it is to break the tip, even though it is very thin. This biomaterial can bend six times further before breaking than the material used in other regions. If the tip were made of the same material as the rest of the crab, it could never stay sharp and the crab would have difficulty clinging."
This bromine-rich material at the tips of crab claws and legs is a new member of a class of structural biomaterials that employ heavy atoms like zinc, iodine and iron. "It's not yet clear why heavy elements are used," Schofield said. "Perhaps the mass of the atoms themselves plays a role in damping vibrations that can lead to fracture."
These heavy-element biomaterials had escaped notice until now because they are typically employed by small organisms such as insects. Schofield was lead author of a study published in 2001 that had identified their presence in mandibular teeth, tarsal claws, stings and other such tools of small organisms.
In order to measure the mechanical properties of these tiny structures, the researchers had to develop machines and techniques that would work for tiny samples.
"It turns out that fracture tends to be a bigger problem for small organisms than for large ones," Schofield said. "Humans are just starting to try to engineer tiny machines and tools, and we have a lot still to learn from organisms that have coped with being small for millions of years."
World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes
17.07.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt
Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin
17.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
13.07.2018 | Event News
12.07.2018 | Event News
03.07.2018 | Event News
17.07.2018 | Information Technology
17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences
17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering