Hardness in arthropod exoskeletons in the absence of transition metals

Acta Biomater. 2010 Aug;6(8):3152-6. doi: 10.1016/j.actbio.2010.02.009. Epub 2010 Feb 10.


The arthropod cuticle is a remarkable and versatile biological material commonly composed of chitin and proteins. Lessons can be learned from the way it is adapted to fit its functions. The larval jewel beetle, Pseudotaenia frenchi, demonstrates hardness in the cutting edge of the mandibles in excess of the mineralized carapace of stone crabs and compares favourably with some stainless steels. Yet this is a form of cuticle which is devoid of transition metals or mineralization. In seeming contradiction, the similarly dark coloured adult beetle mandibles contain the transition metal manganese, but are significantly softer. Energy dispersive X-ray analysis and infrared spectroscopy have been used to investigate the differences in composition of mandible cuticle of the adult and larval beetles.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Bone and Bones / ultrastructure
  • Coleoptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Coleoptera / ultrastructure
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Hardness
  • Mandible / anatomy & histology
  • Mandible / ultrastructure
  • Spectrophotometry, Infrared
  • Transition Elements / analysis*


  • Transition Elements