For any regular readers, I'm sorry to have missed posting last week. I was knocked offline by my computer spraying sparks (from a failed video card). After some troubleshooting, I determined that increasing amounts of sparks would be generated each time I applied supplementary power to the video card. So, now I have a nice and new video card and can once again do computery things.
Even though such things seem to be more in the realm of science-fiction than biology, I really like the idea of metals being used in biological systems. Specifically, metals being used for their structural characteristics, not simply as ions in protein complexes (hemoglobin, chlorophyll, cytochromes, etc.).
If the sauropod dinosaurs had built their bones from steel, they might have been able to grow far larger than they did. If turtles grew iron into their shells, they would be protected from even the most determined of [existing] predators. Organisms with metal threads through their skin might be able to perceive and/or generate radio waves. Essentially anything our technology uses metals for would potentially be within the realm of evolutionary biology (since it all comes down to physics in the end). The world would be a very different place.
It turns out that some organisms actually do grow metal in specialized tissues. Well, not exactly metal, usually, but more like heavily metal-reinforced tissues.
- The Clamworm uses zinc-infused jaws to chew through mollusc shells.
- The Bloodworm has copper-infused jaws.
- The Terror Shrew had iron-infused tooth enamel.
- The Scaly-Foot Gastropod has armor made from iron sulphides.
- Chitons build their radula from iron oxides.
- Parasitoid Ichneumonoid wasps have zinc-armored ovipositor.
- Clamworm (Nereis limbata):
- Bloodworm (Glycera dibranchiata):
- Terror shrew (Dinosorex spp.):
- Scaly-Foot Gastropod (Chrysomallon squamiferum):
- Parasitoid Ichneumonoid wasps: