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Colonies bond together: Eastern oyster


Oyster bed in SE USA / Doug DuCap F.. / LicenseCC-by-sa - Attribution Share Alike

Colonies of oysters bond together to form reef complexes using a unique organic-inorganic hybrid cement adhesive.

"Coastal ecosystems rely upon oyster reefs to filter water, provide protection from storms, and build habitat for other species. From a chemistry perspective, few details are available to illustrate how these shellfish construct such extensive reef systems. Experiments presented here show that oysters generate a biomineralized adhesive material for aggregating into large communities. This cement is an organic−inorganic hybrid and differs from the surrounding shells by displaying an alternate CaCO3 crystal form, a cross-linked organic matrix, and an elevated protein content. Emerging themes and unique aspects are both revealed when comparing oyster cement to the adhesives of other marine organisms. The presence of cross-linked proteins provides an analogy to mussel and barnacle adhesives whereas the high inorganic content is exclusive to oysters. With a description of oyster cement in hand we gain strategies for developing synthetic composite materials as well as a better understanding of the components needed for healthy coastal environments." (Burkett et al. 2010)
About the inspiring organism
Med_2232411772_fef0da8762_o eastern oyster
Crassostrea virginica (Gmelin, 1791)
Common names: Blue Point oyster, American cupped oyster

Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Wet setting surgical adhesives. New classes of synthetic materials. Adhesion-preventing coatings & surfaces.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Medicine, construction, shipping, marine, materials science

Wilker Research Group
Jonathan Wilker
Department of Chemistry, Purdue University
2010. Cement, the glue that holds oyster families together. EurekAlert! [Internet],
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Burkett JR; Hight LM; Kenny P; Wilker JJ. 2010. Oysters produce an organic-inorganic adhesive for intertidal reef construction. J Am Chem Soc.
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