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Aluminum-Armored Crustaceans

Living in the deep sea some 4500 meters deep would prove to be difficult for amphipods — tiny shrimplike crustaceans found in most aquatic ecosystems. We know that the deeper the water, the higher the pressure. Add to that low temperatures in the ocean deep, and high acidity of the waters. This would mean trouble for the tiny creatures, as these factors cause “the calcium carbonate in their exoskeletons to dissolve, making them vulnerable to pressure and predators”. However, this is not the case for the Hirondellea gigas. This one species found a way to survive in the harsh conditions of the deep sea. Their solution? Making aluminum suits of armor.

Researchers first analyzed H. gigas specimens found at the bottom of the Challenger Deep, more than 10,000 meters below the surface of the ocean. They found that this extreme amphipod constructs a personal suit of armor—a layer of aluminum hydroxide gel covering the surface of its exoskeleton. But aluminum isn’t abundant in ocean water, making it hard to source as a building material. It is, however, abundant in ocean sediment.

Nature sure is amazing.

(Image Credit: Daiju Azuma/ Wikimedia Commons)


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