Characterization of biominerals in the radula teeth of the chiton, Acanthopleura hirtosa

Martin Saunders, C. Kong, Jeremy Shaw, D.J. Macey, Peta Clode

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

30 Citations (Web of Science)


Understanding biomineralization processes provides a route to the formation of novel biomimetic materials with potential applications in fields from medicine to materials engineering. The teeth of chitons (marine molluscs) represent an excellent example of a composite biomineralized structure, comprising variable layers of iron oxide, iron oxyhydroxide and apatite. Previous studies of fully mineralized teeth using X-ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) have hinted at the underlying microstructure, but have lacked the resolution to provide vital information on fine scale structure, particularly at interfaces. While transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is capable of providing this information, difficulties in producing suitable samples from the hard, complex biocomposite have hindered progress. To overcome this problem we have used focused ion beam (FIB) processing to prepare precisely oriented sections across interfaces in fully mineralized teeth. In particular, the composite structure is found to be more complex than previously reported, with additional phases (goethite and amorphous apatite) and interface detail observed. This combination of FIB processing and TEM analysis has enabled us to investigate the structural and compositional properties of this complex biocomposite at higher resolution than previously reported and has the potential to significantly enhance future studies of biomineralization in these animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-61
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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