Research Article

The Stomatopod Dactyl Club: A Formidable Damage-Tolerant Biological Hammer

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Science  08 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6086, pp. 1275-1280
DOI: 10.1126/science.1218764

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Hammering Home the Lesson

Stomatopods are marine crustaceans that use hammerlike claws for defense and to attack their prey. The claws undergo repeated high-velocity and high-force impacts. Weaver et al. (p. 1275; see the Perspective by Tanner) used a variety of techniques to examine the structure, mechanical behavior, and toughening mechanisms of the claw of the Peacock Mantis shrimp. The claw's composite structure is optimized for toughness, which helps to prevent the complete failure that might arise from the claw's repetitive hammering.


Nature has evolved efficient strategies to synthesize complex mineralized structures that exhibit exceptional damage tolerance. One such example is found in the hypermineralized hammer-like dactyl clubs of the stomatopods, a group of highly aggressive marine crustaceans. The dactyl clubs from one species, Odontodactylus scyllarus, exhibit an impressive set of characteristics adapted for surviving high-velocity impacts on the heavily mineralized prey on which they feed. Consisting of a multiphase composite of oriented crystalline hydroxyapatite and amorphous calcium phosphate and carbonate, in conjunction with a highly expanded helicoidal organization of the fibrillar chitinous organic matrix, these structures display several effective lines of defense against catastrophic failure during repetitive high-energy loading events.

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