Beak of a large Humboldt squid

Beak of a large Humboldt squid

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Credit: PAUL D STEWART/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Parrot-like beak of a large predatory humboldt squid held in the hand for scale. The material of the humboldt squid beak has been reported as one of the hardest in nature at the tip, yet soft and yielding where it connects to the squids' fleshy mouth. This has excited material scientists as a substance with properties that could be valuable in human applications. The material is soley made up of organic chemicals and is known to be twice as hard and stiff as the best manmade equivalents. The chemistry of the beak is complex, but one tyrosine element Dopa seems to play a key role along with water and Chitin. The relative proportions control the transition from stiff to compliant. See Miserez et al. 2008. Science 319 (5871), 1816-1819.

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Keywords: animal, beak, biomaterial, biotechnology, chitin, dopa, fauna, gaint, humboldt, material science, polymer, predatory, squid, weapon, wildlife

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