Thursday, March 27, 2008

Squid beaks are hard yet soft

It's quite a trick, an organ that's rock hard at the biting tip, yet soft at the base. It allows a soft-bodied animal to turn into a horror-film slasher.

The squid's beak has to attach to the soft tissue around it's mouth, and if it was too hard it would tear loose from the squid when it tried to bite. So the squid needs the beak to have a soft base. But in order to work, the beak needs to be rock-hard at it's biting tip, in order to penetrate and bite through its prey.

The squid conjures up this miraculous beak by using a materials gradient. The beak gradually transitions from soft to hard materials to achieve the change in texture. It's a trick that materials scientists would like to emulate.

And many a man has tried to be manly yet sensitive, a transition that's hard to master. Can we look to a squid for guidance? Apparently so, according to that most romantic of bloggers, PZ Myers.

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