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Tough yet stiff deer antler is materials scientist's dream
Date:11/26/2009

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The team prepared 40 mm long blocks of dry antler and wet deer femur and measured the amount of force needed to bend the blocks to find out how flexible the materials were. Even though most bones are relatively brittle and inflexible when dry, the team found that the dry antlers are almost as stiff as wet bone: which is ideal for weapons that have to survive a lengthy pushing contest after the initial clash.

But how 'tough' was the antler? How much energy could it absorb in the initial crash? Applying a force to the middle of the blocks of bone and gently increasing it until the bone broke, the team plotted a curve of the bending force against the amount that the bone bent. Calculating the amount of energy that the antler could absorb before shattering, Currey found that the tissue was incredibly tough: 2.4 times tougher than normal wet bone. And when Currey measured the amount of energy that the dry antler could absorb in an impact, he was surprised and pleased to see that it could survive impacts 6 times greater than the impacts that shattered wet femur. The dry antler was tougher than wet bone and ideally suited to survive the stags' initial clash.

So dry deer antlers are simultaneously stiff, yet tough, making them perfectly suited to their role as a weapon. And the deer seem to have solved a problem that has puzzled engineers for decades. 'It is very difficult to make anything that is both stiff and tough,' says Currey, but it seems that duelling deer solved the problem eons ago.


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Contact: Kathryn Knight
kathryn@biologists.com
44-122-342-5525
The Company of Biologists
Source:Eurekalert

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