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J Struct Biol. 2013 Aug;183(2):180-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jsb.2013.06.006. Epub 2013 Jun 24.

Crystal lattice tilting in prismatic calcite.

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Department of Physics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706, USA.


We analyzed the calcitic prismatic layers in Atrina rigida (Ar), Haliotis iris (Hi), Haliotis laevigata (HL), Haliotis rufescens (Hrf), Mytilus californianus (Mc), Pinctada fucata (Pf), Pinctada margaritifera (Pm) shells, and the aragonitic prismatic layer in the Nautilus pompilius (Np) shell. Dramatic structural differences were observed across species, with 100-μm wide single-crystalline prisms in Hi, HL and Hrf, 1-μm wide needle-shaped calcite prisms in Mc, 1-μm wide spherulitic aragonite prisms in Np, 20-μm wide single-crystalline calcite prisms in Ar, and 20-μm wide polycrystalline calcite prisms in Pf and Pm. The calcite prisms in Pf and Pm are subdivided into sub-prismatic domains of orientations, and within each of these domains the calcite crystal lattice tilts gradually over long distances, on the order of 100 μm, with an angle spread of crystal orientation of 10-20°. Furthermore, prisms in Pf and Pm are harder than in any other calcite prisms analyzed, their nanoparticles are smaller, and the angle spread is strongly correlated with hardness in all shells that form calcitic prismatic layers. One can hypothesize a causal relationship of these correlated parameters: greater angle spread may confer greater hardness and resistance to wear, thus providing Pf and Pm with a structural advantage in their environment. This is the first structure-property relationship thus far hypothesized in mollusk shell prisms.


Ar; Atrina rigida; Biomineral; HL; Haliotis iris; Haliotis laevigata; Haliotis rufescens; Hardness; Hi; Hrf; Mc; Mesocrystal; Mollusca; Mytilus californianus; Nanocrystal; Nautilus pompilius; Np; PEEM; PIC-mapping; Pf; Pinctada fucata; Pinctada margaritifera; Pm

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