The bite of the common bloodworm, a popular fish bait, hides more than nasty venom. The worm's unusual teeth contain the first known example of a copper-containing mineral in a living organism, researchers report in the Oct. 11 Science.
The worm's version of this strong, lightweight copper chloride mineral, known as atacamite, may serve as a model for the design of new synthetic materials, says coauthor Galen D. Stucky of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Laboratory tests on the jaws of the bloodworm Glycera dibranchiata revealed that atacamite's organization makes them durable and flexible. The mineral forms within a protein matrix as fibrous structures about 50 nanometers wide and 500 nanometers long.