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Mandibular Gnathobases of Marine Planktonic Copepods—Structural and Mechanical Challenges for Diatom Frustules

  • Jan MichelsEmail author
  • Stanislav N. Gorb
Chapter
Part of the Biologically-Inspired Systems book series (BISY, volume 6)

Abstract

Copepods are dominant members of the marine zooplankton. Their diets often contain considerable proportions of diatomtaxa, many of which are known for superior mechanical properties of their mineralised frustules. Nevertheless, many copepod species are able to efficiently crush these frustules including rather stable ones. This ability very likely requires feeding tools with specific shapes, material compositions and material properties. When ingesting food, the copepods use the gnathobases of their mandibles to grab and, if necessary, crush and mince the food items. The morphology of these gnathobases is related to the diets of the copepods. Gnathobases of copepod species that mainly feed on phytoplankton feature compact and stable tooth-like structures, so-called teeth. In several copepod species these gnathobase teeth have been found to contain silica. Recent studies revealed the existence of complex composite structures that, in addition to silica, are composed of the soft and elastic protein resilin and form siliceous gnathobase teeth with a rubber-like bearing. These composite structures very probably increase the efficiency of the siliceous teeth while simultaneously reducing the risk of their mechanical damage. They are supposed to have coevolved with the diatom frustules in an evolutionary arms race, and their development might have contributed considerably to the dominance of copepods within today’s marine zooplankton.

Keywords

Zooplankton Copepod Gnathobase Mandible Composite Silica Resilin Stress Wear Evolutionary arms race Functional morphology 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was financially supported by the virtual institute ‘PlanktonTech’ of the Helmholtz Association. Sigrid Schiel kindly provided copepod samples, and Ruth Alheit helped with the sorting of the samples. The provision of the photograph showing the live Calanoides acutus specimen by Ingo Arndt is gratefully acknowledged. This book chapter is adapted from the publication ‘Michels J, Gorb SN (2015) Mandibular gnathobases of marine planktonic copepods—feeding tools with complex micro- and nanoscale composite architectures. Beilstein J Nanotechnol 6:674–685’.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Functional Morphology and BiomechanicsInstitute of Zoology, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Biological OceanographyGEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research KielKielGermany

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