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Sea urchins have five teeth, each held by a separate jaw in a circular arrangement at the center of their spiked, spherical bodies. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Matter on September 18 have discovered how the teeth of the pink sea urchin are specially equipped to sharpen themselves.
Rather than simply resisting wear, their teeth are actually built to chip in a way that helps them to maintain a sharp edge. The researchers liken it to the sharpening of a knife by selectively removing material from the cutting edge. The findings may lead to new kinds of synthetic materials for use in various applications, the researchers say.
Material - Outer - Layer - Tooth - Behavior
"The material on the outer layer of the tooth exhibits a complex behavior of plasticity and damage that regulates 'controlled' chipping of the tooth to maintain its sharpness," said Horacio Espinosa of Northwestern University. To make up for the loss of material, he explains, an urchin's teeth continue to grow throughout life.
Researchers had suggested previously that sea urchins might have such a self-sharpening tooth mechanism. But it wasn't clear how they could selectively cleave portions...
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