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Acta Biomater. 2007 Jan;3(1):139-49. Epub 2006 Nov 17.

Jumbo squid beaks: inspiration for design of robust organic composites.

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Materials Department, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106, USA.


The hard tissues found in some invertebrate marine organisms represent intriguing paradigms for robust, lightweight materials. The present study focuses on one such tissue: that comprising the beak of the jumbo squid (Dosidicus gigas). Its main constituents are chitin fibers (15-20wt.%) and histidine- and glycine-rich proteins (40-45%). Notably absent are mineral phases, metals and halogens. Despite being fully organic, beak hardness and stiffness are at least twice those of the most competitive synthetic organic materials (notably engineering polymers) and comparable to those of Glycera and Nereis jaws. Furthermore, the combination of hardness and stiffness makes the beaks more resistant to plastic deformation when in contact with blunt abrasives than virtually all metals and polymers. The 3,4-dihydroxy-l-phenylalanine and abundant histidine content in the beak proteins as well as the pigmented hydrolysis-resistant residue are suggestive of aromatic cross-linking. A high cross-linking density between the proteins and chitin may be the single most important determinant of hardness and stiffness in the beak. Beak microstructure is characterized by a lamellar arrangement of the constituents, with a weak interface that promotes crack deflection and endows the structure with high fracture toughness. The susceptibility of this microstructure to cracking along these interfaces from contact stresses at the external surface is mitigated by the presence of a protective coating.

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