PerspectiveMaterials Science

Small But Extremely Tough

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1237-1238
DOI: 10.1126/science.1222642

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Anyone interested in keeping the stomatopod Odontodactylus scyllarus (1), commonly known as the peacock or harlequin mantis shrimp (see the first figure), will soon discover that these crustaceans should not be kept in glass aquaria. The force generated with the dactyl club—a 5-mm-wide appendage used by the shrimp to smash the shells of their prey—can reach 500 N, sufficient to fracture a glass aquarium wall. O. scyllarus, which is only 3 to 18 cm long, can apply these forces multiple times without damage to its own appendage. On page 1275 of this issue, Weaver et al. (2) investigate the structure of the dactyl club of O. scyllarus and show that it has a much higher specific strength and toughness than any synthetic composite material.