Evidence of a molecular boundary lubricant at snakeskin surfaces.

Baio, Joe E., Spinner, Marlene, Jaye, Cherno, Fischer, Daniel A., Gorb, Stanislav and Weidner, Tobias (2015) Evidence of a molecular boundary lubricant at snakeskin surfaces. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 12 (113). DOI 10.1098/rsif.2015.0817.

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During slithering locomotion the ventral scales at a snake's belly are in direct mechanical interaction with the environment, while the dorsal scales provide optical camouflage and thermoregulation. Recent work has demonstrated that compared to dorsal scales, ventral scales provide improved lubrication and wear protection. While biomechanic adaption of snake motion is of growing interest in the fields of material science and robotics, the mechanism for how ventral scales influence the friction between the snake and substrate, at the molecular level, is unknown. In this study, we characterize the outermost surface of snake scales using sum frequency generation (SFG) spectra and near-edge X-ray absorption fine structure (NEXAFS) images collected from recently shed California kingsnake (Lampropeltis californiae) epidermis. SFG's nonlinear optical selection rules provide information about the outermost surface of materials; NEXAFS takes advantage of the shallow escape depth of the electrons to probe the molecular structure of surfaces. Our analysis of the data revealed the existence of a previously unknown lipid coating on both the ventral and dorsal scales. Additionally, the molecular structure of this lipid coating closely aligns to the biological function: lipids on ventral scales form a highly ordered layer which provides both lubrication and wear protection at the snake's ventral surface.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: Times Cited: 0
Keywords: snakeskin surface chemistry biomimetic materials
Research affiliation: OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence > FO-R03
Kiel University
Kiel University > Kiel Marine Science
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1098/rsif.2015.0817
ISSN: 1742-5689
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 20 Oct 2016 11:03
Last Modified: 24 Sep 2019 00:10
URI: http://oceanrep.geomar.de/id/eprint/32404

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