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Understanding the Tiling Rules of the Tessellated Mineralized Endoskeleton of Sharks and Rays

  • The endoskeletons of sharks and rays are composed of an unmineralized cartilaginous core, covered in an outer layer of mineralized tiles called tesserae. The tessellated layer is vital to the growth as well as the material properties of the skeletal element, providing both flexibility and strength. However, characterizing the relationship between tesseral size and shape, and skeletal growth and mechanics is challenging because tesserae are small (a few hundred micrometers wide), anchored to the surrounding tissue in complex three-dimensional ways, and occur in huge numbers. Using a custom-made semi-automatic segmentation algorithm, we present the first quantitative and three-dimensional description of tesserae in micro-CT scans of whole skeletal elements. Our segmentation algorithm relies on aspects we have learned of general tesseral morphology. We exploit the distance map of the mineralized layer to separate individual tiles using a hierarchical watershed algorithm. Additionally, we have developed post-processing techniques to quickly correct segmentation errors. Our data reveals that the tessellation is not regular, with tesserae showing a great range of shapes, sizes and number of neighbors. This is partly region-dependent: for example, thick, columnar tesserae are arranged in series along convex edges with small radius of curvature (RoC), whereas more brick-or disc-shaped tesserae are found in planar areas. We apply our newly developed techniques on the left and right hyomandibula (skeletal elements supporting the jaws) from four different ages of a stingray species, to clarify how tiling patterns develop across ontogeny and differ within and between individuals. We evaluate the functional consequences of tesseral morphologies using finite element analysis and 3d-printing, for a better understanding of shark skeletal mechanics, but also to extract fundamental engineering design principles of tiling arrangements on load-bearing three-dimensional objects.

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Author:David KnötelORCiD, Ronald Seidel, Ahmed Hosny, Paul Zaslansky, James C. Weaver, Daniel BaumORCiD, Mason N. Dean
Document Type:Poster
Parent Title (English):Poster, Euro Bio-inspired Materials 2016, Potsdam, Germany, February 22 - 25, 2016
Year of first publication:2016
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