This creature possess a rare mineral once found only in rocks, according to scientists. 

The giant Pacific chiton could inspire soft robotics.

Nature will never seize to baffle us; and evolution always has its shady tactics of diversifying the world still hidden. And it didn’t let researchers down on finding clues to one of nature’s mysteries. This charismatic looking creature found in the Pacific holds one of the mysteries that scientist just revealed. Dear friends, have you brushed your teeth yet? The teeth of the world’s largest chiton, Cryptochiton stelleri, also known as the “wandering meatloaf,” has a rare mineral that was once upon a time only found in rocks.

The Wandering Wonder

In a recent study by researchers from the Northwestern University which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, they studied the C. stelleri — the leathery brownish mollusk and made the discovery of a rare mineral that it possess that’s previously found only in rocks. The mineral found was what made it able to meld it’s teeth and to graze on rocky coastlines. C. stelleri is the world’s largest chiton, which could reach up to roughly 35 centimeters (13 inches) long.

It has several dozen rows of teeth known as a radula — a slender, flexible, tongue-like appendage (pictured below) that it uses to scrape algae off the surfaces of rocks as it graze. These teeth are covered in a rare mineral known as magnetite — the hardest, stiffest known bio-mineral ever known. It is three time as hard as your teeth and that of mollusk shells. The radula is studded with hard magnetic minerals that allow the wandering meatloaf to graze on rocks.

Image: Northwestern University | image of the radula’s stages of development — from earliest (left) to latest (right).

Santa Barbaraite Is Wandering To Town

For the study, led material scientist Derk Joester and his team analyzed these teeth with the aid of high-energy X-ray laser from the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois. The researchers found that the interface between the teeth and the flesh contained nanoparticles of a rare mineral never seen before in the body of a living organism. What they discovered was for the first time: santabarbaraite — a mineral heavily loaded with iron.

The nanoparticles found in the chiton’s teeth helps the underpinnings in them. This also varies in hardness and stiffness at least by a factor of two over the distances of roughly a few micrometers — that’s a few times the average width of a human hair. These variation help the structures bridge the hard parts of the chiton’s body. The researchers hope to find more organisms — including insect cuticles and bacteria — that are capable of sensing magnetic fields with santabarbaraite.

The Wanders Of Soft Robotics

Image: Northwestern University | a close up view of the radula organ seen under an electron microscope.

The researchers also used nanoparticles similar to santabarbaraite, and made three-dimensional (3-D) prints of strong, light materials with several varieties of hardness and stiffness. These findings could help in the frontiers of soft robotics and nanotechnology, as these composites might be used to develop soft and hard components in bots that current conventional robots aren’t capable to maneuver, considering their rigid parts, according to Joester.

Read more facts like this one in your inbox. Sign up for our daily email here.

The Factionary is ever ready to provide you with more interesting content for your reading pleasure. If you’re amazed by our work, you can support us on Patreon by a donation fee of your choice. Thank you!

Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Sun, Sep 26, 2021.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.