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Multifunctionality of chiton biomineralized armor with an integrated visual system

Science  20 Nov 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6263, pp. 952-956
DOI: 10.1126/science.aad1246

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A set of strong eyes

Although many biological tissues serve more than one purpose, rarely are they optimized to do multiple tasks well. When you try to optimize for one functionality, it comes at the expense of another. Li et al. investigated the biomineralized armor of the small mollusc chiton Acanthopleura granulata. The armor appears to be optimized for both mechanical strength and for image capture by hundreds of integral aragonite-based lenses.

Science, this issue p. 952

Abstract

Nature provides a multitude of examples of multifunctional structural materials in which trade-offs are imposed by conflicting functional requirements. One such example is the biomineralized armor of the chiton Acanthopleura granulata, which incorporates an integrated sensory system that includes hundreds of eyes with aragonite-based lenses. We use optical experiments to demonstrate that these microscopic lenses are able to form images. Light scattering by the polycrystalline lenses is minimized by the use of relatively large, crystallographically aligned grains. Multiscale mechanical testing reveals that as the size, complexity, and functionality of the integrated sensory elements increase, the local mechanical performance of the armor decreases. However, A. granulata has evolved several strategies to compensate for its mechanical vulnerabilities to form a multipurpose system with co-optimized optical and structural functions.

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