Tough mollusc teeth give bite to new research

Researchers at The University of Western Australia are studying the teeth structure of a mollusc in the hope of copying it to develop new biosynthetic materials with far-reaching biomedical, industrial and environmental applications.

Dr Jeremy Shaw, member of the Biomineralisation Research Group at UWA's Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis, is studying the unique teeth of chitons (pronounced kite-ons), marine molluscs that have existed for millions of years. About 700 species are found all over the world.

Chitons' teeth are toughened with iron biominerals - they are harder than steel - which allows them to graze on algae located within rock. Dr Shaw said chitons have one of the highest concentrations of iron in their bodies of any animal. The species in which Dr Shaw is interested, Acanthopleura hirtosa, is a local variety that he collects from Woodman Point. He needs very small numbers of them for his research.

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