UCSB Profs Fascinated by Squid Beaks

Body Part One of the Hardest Known Organic Substances

The beak of the Humboldt Squid, or Dosidicus gigas, is one of hardest organic substances known to scientists. Biologists, marine scientists, and engineers at UCSB are working together to try and understand how a squid’s gelatinous, soft body can operate with a knife-like beak and not rip itself to shreds. “In the case of the squid beak, nature takes care of the problem by changing the beak composition progressively, rather than abruptly, so that its tip can pierce prey without harming the squid in the process. It’s a truly fascinating design!” said Frank Zok, professor and associate chair of UCSB’s department of materials, in a statement issued this week by the university.

For engineers, a squid’s beak could open many doors as far as grasping how different materials join together. “If you graded an adhesive to make its properties match one material on one side and the other material on the other side, you could potentially form a much more robust bond. This could really revolutionize the way engineers think about attaching materials,” Zok said. Humboldt Squid are moving from their traditional locations of concentration to Southern California waters. Recently dozens of dead squid have washed up on Southern California beaches, helping scientists continue their research on the beaks.


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