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Seidl, Bastian H. M.; Griesshaber, Erika; Fabritius, Helge-Otto; Reisecker, Christian; Hild, Sabine; Taiti, Stefano; Schmahl, Wolfgang W. and Ziegler, Andreas (2018): Tailored disorder in calcite organization in tergite cuticle of the supralittoral isopod Tylos europaeus Arcangeli, 1938. In: Journal of Structural Biology, Vol. 204, No. 3: pp. 464-480

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The crustacean cuticle forms skeletal elements consisting of chitin-protein fibrils reinforced by amorphous and crystalline calcium carbonate and phosphate minerals. The edges of skeletal elements are of particular interest. They are subject to repeated strain and stress because they form transitions to the arthrodial membranes connecting them. These allow for relative movements of skeletal elements. In this study, we investigate structure, chemical composition, mineral organization and local mechanical properties of the anterior and posterior edges of the tergite cuticle in the conglobating beach isopod Tylos europaeus and compare these with the protective dorsal region of the tergites. The distribution of mineral phases at the edges resembles that of dorsal regions of the tergites. At the transition with the unmineralized arthrodial membrane the calcite containing distal exocuticle is replaced by epicuticular material and the subjacent cuticular layers containing amorphous calcium carbonate become enriched with amorphous calcium phosphate. At the edges, the local elastic modulus and hardness values are significantly lower compared to dorsal regions of the tergite cuticle, for both, the calcite and the amorphous mineral containing layers. The calcite within the tergite cuticle is assembled in different texture patterns: (i) almost random co-orientation, (ii) almost single crystalline calcite, and (iii) a graded organization. Calcite organization and co-orientation strength is highly variable, not only on very few tens of micrometres, but also between regions with different skeletal functionality. Our results show that besides structure and composition, patterns of calcite organization contribute to the hierarchical architecture and functionality of biological composites.

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