The antlers atop the heads of al different kinds of deer — including the reindeer that live way up north — have to be tough enough to face off with others.
Deer antlers are made out of bone and are an extension of the deers’ skull. But until now, researchers weren’t entirely clear why this antler bone was able to handle so much stress without breaking during fights.
According to researchers from Queen Mary University 0f London, it has a lot to do with how the fibres in the antler bone are arranged on a microscopic level.
“The fibrils that make up the antler are staggered rather than in line with each other. This allows them to absorb the energy from the impact of a clash during a fight,” author Paolino De Falco said in a news release.
For their analysis, the researchers looked at the antlers of red deer. In total, there are 47 species in the deer family, including reindeer, caribou, and elk. With the exception of one, all have antlers.
Looking at the antler bone on a nano-level — that is, looking at structures that are about one thousandth the width of a hair — they were able to identify the staggered fibres, surrounded by a system that could get damaged. Together, this makes the antler bone have elastic qualities, meaning it can bounce back from intense strain.
The results were published Monday in the journal ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.
Now that the researchers have this information about antler bones at the nanoscale, the hope is to put it to good use in damage-resistant materials that could be stronger than ever.
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