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The cuttlefish Sepia officinalis (Sepiidae, Cephalopoda) constructs cuttlebone from a liquid-crystal precursor
Checa, A.; Cartwright, J.H.E.; Sanchez Almazo, I.; Andrade, J.P.; Ruiz-Raya, F. (2015). The cuttlefish Sepia officinalis (Sepiidae, Cephalopoda) constructs cuttlebone from a liquid-crystal precursor. NPG Scientific Reports 5(11513): 13 pp.
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Checa, A.
  • Cartwright, J.H.E.
  • Sanchez Almazo, I.
  • Andrade, J.P.
  • Ruiz-Raya, F.

    Cuttlebone, the sophisticated buoyancy device of cuttlefish, is made of extensive superposed chambers that have a complex internal arrangement of calcified pillars and organic membranes. It has not been clear how this structure is assembled. We find that the membranes result from a myriad of minor membranes initially filling the whole chamber, made of nanofibres evenly oriented within each membrane and slightly rotated with respect to those of adjacent membranes, producing a helical arrangement. We propose that the organism secretes a chitin–protein complex, which self-organizes layer-by-layer as a cholesteric liquid crystal, whereas the pillars are made by viscous fingering. The liquid crystallization mechanism permits us to homologize the elements of the cuttlebone with those of other coleoids and with the nacreous septa and the shells of nautiloids. These results challenge our view of this ultra-light natural material possessing desirable mechanical, structural and biological properties, suggesting that two self-organizing physical principles suffice to understand its formation.

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