Mechanical wear of the gastropod radula: a scanning electron microscope study



The wear sustained by the teeth of the highly mineralized radula of Patella vulgata and the unmineralized radula of Agriolomax reticulatus has been studied with the scanning electron microscope. The unworn teeth of P. vulgata have tall pointed cusps and wear is first seen as a chipping of the tips then as abrasion. There is a well defined abraded surface giving the worn teeth a chisel shape. In cleaved teeth fibres ˜ 800 Å in diameter are observed parallel to the axis of the tooth. Evidence is presented for chemical etching and for the existence of a surface coat on the tooth. A. reticulatus teeth show wear over their whole surface. With the aid of the grooves in the jaw caused by the teeth the role of the jaw in flattening the radula and protracting and retracting the odontophore is confirmed. From the arrangement of the abraded surfaces on the teeth of P. vulgata it was deduced that the teeth rows are abraded one at a time while on a convex surface at or near the bending plane.