Researchers imaged and analyzed the nanostructure of the teeth to solve the mysteries of the dragonfish’s dental disguise, they used a combination of electron microscopy, focused ion beam and nanoindentation tests. They discovered that the teeth of the deep-sea creature have unique characteristics both in their outer layer and inner layer.
The outer layer consists of hydroxyapatite nanocrystals structured in a way that prevents light from scattering or reflecting off the surface of the teeth. The inner layer is also structured in its own way, it lacks microscopic channels called dentine tubules, which gives the teeth of humans and other animals color. This absence is the reason why the teeth of the dragonfish is transparent.
“Typically, teeth are not nanostructured. And they tend to have microscale features such as dentin tubules. From a materials perspective, it’s really interesting to see that dragonfish teeth have architectures that we do not see in others,” Velasco-Hogan said.
“I also find it fascinating how there are fundamental similarities between materials in the lab and in nature,” she added. “Experimentally, we know that the way to make a material transparent is by reducing its grain size to make it nanostructured. So to see that is also how nature is accomplishing transparency is an interesting parallel.”
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