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Parrotfish Teeth: Stiff Biominerals Whose Microstructure Makes Them Tough and Abrasion-Resistant To Bite Stony Corals

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Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Berkeley, California 94720, United States
Biological and Biomimetic Material Laboratory, School of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University, 637553 Singapore
§ Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin−Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, United States
School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, 637551 Singapore
Departments of Chemistry, Geoscience, Materials Science Program, University of Wisconsin−Madison, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, United States
Cite this: ACS Nano 2017, 11, 12, 11856–11865
Publication Date (Web):October 20, 2017
Copyright © 2017 American Chemical Society

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    Abstract Image

    Parrotfish (Scaridae) feed by biting stony corals. To investigate how their teeth endure the associated contact stresses, we examine the chemical composition, nano- and microscale structure, and the mechanical properties of the steephead parrotfish Chlorurus microrhinos tooth. Its enameloid is a fluorapatite (Ca5(PO4)3F) biomineral with outstanding mechanical characteristics: the mean elastic modulus is 124 GPa, and the mean hardness near the biting surface is 7.3 GPa, making this one of the stiffest and hardest biominerals measured; the mean indentation yield strength is above 6 GPa, and the mean fracture toughness is ∼2.5 MPa·m1/2, relatively high for a highly mineralized material. This combination of properties results in high abrasion resistance. Fluorapatite X-ray absorption spectroscopy exhibits linear dichroism at the Ca L-edge, an effect that makes peak intensities vary with crystal orientation, under linearly polarized X-ray illumination. This observation enables polarization-dependent imaging contrast mapping of apatite, a method to quantitatively measure and display nanocrystal orientations in large, pristine arrays of nano- and microcrystalline structures. Parrotfish enameloid consists of 100 nm-wide, microns long crystals co-oriented and assembled into bundles interwoven as the warp and the weave in fabric and therefore termed fibers here. These fibers gradually decrease in average diameter from 5 μm at the back to 2 μm at the tip of the tooth. Intriguingly, this size decrease is spatially correlated with an increase in hardness.

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    Supporting Information

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    The Supporting Information is available free of charge on the ACS Publications website at DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b05044.

    • Figures S1–S18 and detailed experimental methods (PDF)

    • Movie S1: micro-CT of the complex arrangement of subsequent teeth in one slice of a parrotfish beak (MOV)

    • Movie S2: A model beak obtained by manually assembling 25 identical teeth in 3D to make them match experimental cross-sections in 2D (AVI)

    • Movie S3: PIC map and vectors are rotated as in Figure 8 (AVI)

    • Movie S4: The vectors in Figure S12 shown in 3D (AVI)

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