What is it about?

The club-like tools of mantis shrimp are used for hunting and withstands immense mechanical forces. The paper discusses the discovery that a part of the hammers that was hitherto believed to consist of amorphous calcium carbonate/phosphate and the biopolymer chitin sometimes undergo crystallization to contain crystalline calcium carbonate in the form of calcite and chitin. This is achieved by a combination of X-ray tomography and diffraction.

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Why is it important?

The discovery that functioning clubs can contain either amorphous calcium carbonate or calcite suggests that the biological design (the 'architecture' of the material) incorporates flexibility: the club appear to function either way. This suggests that the biological design space of the material incorporates some flexibility. This is of importance for our understanding of biological materials more broadly but also for design of bioinspired synthetic functional materials.


This paper uses both X-ray diffraction and X-ray tomography together. The diffraction was done in a position resolved fashion, which is becoming increasingly possible at modern synchrotron facilities. This opens doors to investigation of other materials in new and/or more advanced ways than hitherto possible.

Professor Henrik Birkedal
Aarhus Universitet

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Flexible design in the stomatopod dactyl club, IUCrJ, March 2023, International Union of Crystallography,
DOI: 10.1107/s2052252523002075.
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