Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and collaborators at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Chicago believe they have uncovered the basis how marine mussels use the byssus, a bundle of tough and extensible fibres, to fasten securely to wave-swept rocky coastlines.
(I) Mussels attach to hard surfaces in the marine intertidal zone with the byssus. (II) Byssal threads are extensible fibers with a hard and rough-textured protective cuticle (scanning electron microscopy). The knobby morphology of the cuticle originates from granular inclusions embedded in a continuous matrix. (III) The amount of dopa-iron complexes was found to be much higher in the granules than the matrix, which likely leads to their differences in mechanical performance during stretching. (Image: Matt Harrington, Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces)