Fibrous anisotropy and mineral gradients Within the radula stylus of chiton: Controlled stiffness and damage tolerance in a flexible biological composite

Jung Eun Lee, John Connolloy, Wen Yang, Guillaume Freychet, Taifeng Wang, Steven A. Herrera, Satoshi Murata, Phani Saketh Dasika, Devis Montroni, Anna Pohl, Chenhui Zhu, Mikhail Zhernenkov, Richard Wuhrer, Leigh Sheppard, Michiko Nemoto, Atsushi Arakaki, Pablo Zavattieri, David Kisailus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Over hundreds of millions of years, organisms have evolved architected structures via precise control over hierarchically assembled components, including the integration of dissimilar materials. One such example is found in the radula system of chitons, intertidal mollusks that feed on algae growing on the rock. Their radula consists of multiple rows of ultrahard teeth, each integrated with a foldable belt-like substrate via a stiff, yet flexible stylus, which is essential for efficient rasping during the feeding process. Here, we investigate the nano and micro-scale components and architectures as well as regional mechanical properties of the stylus, and their subsequent role during the rasping of Cryptochiton stelleri. Three important factors were determined to contribute to the regio-specific stiffness of the stylus: the presence of mineral components, highly oriented chitinous fibers, and a chemically cross-linked protein matrix. All these factors are varied throughout the stylus. There is a high mineral content on the trailing edge close to the tooth and a cross-linked matrix on the leading edge, both with orientational specific oriented chitin fibers that provide force transduction to the tooth. Conversely, there is a significant lack of mineral or cross-linked matrix in the proximal end as well as a low degree of fiber orientation, resulting in a flexible region that can accommodate torsion and flexure during rasping. Understanding the graded composite structure of the stylus and applying this unique design to various engineering fields such as soft robotics, biotechnology, and the medical industry, can inspire the production of high-performance materials.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Composite Materials
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • biocomposite
  • biomineral
  • Chiton
  • flexibility
  • nanofiber
  • stiffness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ceramics and Composites
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Materials Chemistry


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