X-ray absorption microtomography (microCT) and small beam diffraction mapping of sea urchin teeth

S. R. Stock*, J. Barss, T. Dahl, A. Veis, J. D. Almer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Two noninvasive X-ray techniques, laboratory X-ray absorption microtomography (microCT) and X-ray diffraction mapping, were used to study teeth of the sea urchin Lytechinus variegatus. MicroCT revealed low attenuation regions at near the tooth's stone part and along the carinar process-central prism boundary; this latter observation appears to be novel. The expected variation of Mg fraction x in the mineral phase (calcite, Ca1-x MgxCO3) cannot account for all of the linear attenuation coefficient decrease in the two zones: this suggested that soft tissue is localized there. Transmission diffraction mapping (synchrotron X-radiation, 80.8 keV, 0.1 × 0:1mm2 beam area, 0.1 mm translation grid, image plate area detector) simultaneously probed variations in 3-D and showed that the crystal elements of the "T"-shaped tooth were very highly aligned. Diffraction patterns from the keel (adaxial web) and from the abaxial flange (containing primary plates and the stone part) differed markedly. The flange contained two populations of identically oriented crystal elements with lattice parameters corresponding to x = 0.13 and x = 0.32. The keel produced one set of diffraction spots corresponding to the lower x. The compositions were more or less equivalent to those determined by others for camarodont teeth, and the high Mg phase is expected to be disks of secondary mineral epitaxially related to the underlying primary mineral element. Lattice parameter gradients were not noted in the keel or flange. Taken together, the microCT and diffraction results indicated that there was a band of relatively high protein content, of up to ∼ 0.25 volume fraction, in the central part of the flange and paralleling its adaxial and abaxial faces. X-ray microCT and microdiffraction data used in conjunction with protein distribution data will be crucial for understanding the properties of various biocomposites and their mechanical functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2002


  • Lytechinus variegatus
  • Microtomography (microCT)
  • Sea urchin
  • Tooth
  • X-ray
  • X-ray diffraction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology


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