Whale barbs withstand a century when filtering food without fracture


A study published in Advanced Materials states that whale teeth can withstand life-free forces generated by the flow of water and prey. The finding opens a way for the development of advanced engineering materials, say the authors.

Although little studied, it is known that whale beards are formed by a strong and flexible material. It was popular to wear in corsets from the 11th to the 20th century and has been used in Alaskan native basketware.

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The research, led by Wang Bin of the Shenzhen Advanced Technology Institutes of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, showed that The nanoscale structure of the intermediate filaments and mineral crystals of the beard, embedded in an amorphous matrix, increases its stiffness and strength.

These beards consist of a series of parallel plates suspended from the palate to either side of the mouth, which allow efficient feeding into large numbers of small zooplankton. This filtering mechanism allowed mystatus to evolve into the largest living creatures on Earth. They are mainly made of mineralized keratin material.

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