Squids not only have sharp beaks - their beaks are made from one of the hardest materials found in nature. Yet, these beaks are attached to soft tissues with the consistency of Jell-O. Why don't squids get cut every time they eat?
Now, a team of scientists at UC Santa Barbara discovered the answer:
To solve the mystery, the research team painstaking studied the chemical composition of the sharp beak of the Humboldt squid. They found that the components in the beak — polysaccaride chitin, water and protein enriched in the compound Dopa and amino acid histidine — slightly change in quantities between the tip and the base. Dopa is concentrated at the tip, and gradually decreases as it moves toward the beak, the researchers found.
When mixed with water, the beak becomes increasingly soft and bendable as it moves toward the mouth. However, when the base dries out, it becomes as stiff as the tip.
"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," Zok said. "It's a truly fascinating design!"