Mechanics of pharyngeal teeth of black carp (mylopharyngodon piceus) crushing mollusk shells

Chong He, Wu Zhou, Hongtao Wang, San-Qiang Shi, Haimin Yao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Mollusks such as snail and mussels adopt hard shells to protect their vulnerable bodies. Recent studies on biomaterials have revealed that these shells especially the nacre layers exhibit excellent mechanical properties, inspiring a number of biomimetic endeavors. Nevertheless, in nature, there is a species of fish called Mylopharyngodon piceus or black carp, whose main diet is exactly snails and mussels. Does such unique diet imply that the pharyngeal teeth of black carp, its major masticatory apparatus, are superior to the mollusk shells in mechanical properties? In this paper, structural and mechanical characterizations are conducted on the pharyngeal teeth of black carp, showing that enameloid, the outermost layer of black carp teeth, possesses similar elastic modulus and hardness in comparison to those of the pond snail shells. To shed light on the mechanics underlying the capability of pharyngeal teeth to crush mollusk shells, parametric studies on the geometry of the shells are conducted by means of finite element method. It is found that whether a mollusk shell is crushable or not, for given pharyngeal teeth, depends on the radius (R) and thickness (t) of the shell. A predation map for black carp teeth is constructed by delimiting the t-R plane into three phasic regions corresponding to three possible consequences of the mechanical competition between pharyngeal teeth and shells. It is interesting to notice that all the freshwater shells chosen at random fall in the crushable regime while the seashells do not necessarily. This feature of black carp teeth can be speculated as a result of evolution in response to its freshwater diet. Mylopharyngodon piceus, or black carp, is a species of fish mainly feeding on mollusks, which are commonly protected by hard exoskeleton. Why can the black carp crush the hard mollusk shells at ease? Does such unique diet imply that its teeth are superior to the mollusk shells in mechanical properties? Present mechanics-based study on the competition between black carp teeth and mollusk shells comes up with the answers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)684-690
Number of pages7
JournalAdvanced Engineering Materials
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Condensed Matter Physics

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