Arms and the mollusc: An evolutionary arms race has produced armor based on molluscan biomineralization
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Cartwright, Julyan H. E. et al. Arms and the mollusc: An evolutionary arms race has produced armor based on molluscan biomineralization. MRS Bulletin 49, january 2024. [doi:10.1557/s43577-023-00594-5]
SponsorshipMCIN/AEI/10.13039/ 501100011033 PID2020116660GB-I00; CRUE-CSIC
More than half a billion years ago in the early Cambrian period, there began an evolutionary arms race between molluscs and their predators, in which molluscs developed armor in the form of a biomineral exoskeleton—a shell—to avoid being eaten by predators that were developing jaws and other novel means of devouring them. The mollusc fabricates multiple layers of shell, each of a particular microstructure of a composite between an inorganic and an organic phase, which are the end result of more than 500 million years of coevolution with increasingly deadly predators. Molluscan biomineralization is an excellent case to study how a biological process produces a complex structure, because the shell is constructed as an extracellular structure in which all construction materials are passed out of the cells to self-assemble outside the cell wall. We consider what is known of the development of multilayer composite armor in the form of nacre (mother of pearl) and the other strong microstructures with which molluscs construct their shells.