Sea Cucumber Tubules Give Direction To Tensile Engineering
A sea cucumber gives clue to the making of items which can change shape from stiff to soft or vice versa. Engineering items to change shape based on a situation can be done by seeing how the sea cucumbers produce their tubules.
This is a fascinating feature of the marine organism. Sea cucumbers are often confused with plants or vegetables due to their name.
But in reality, they are marine creatures, which generally scoot across the seabed or floor, and doesn’t harm anybody unless threatened.
The presence of MCT in the tubules
When threatened, the sea cucumbers can shoot out small structures which are like tubes. These tubes are made of a special tissue called MCT. MCT are mutable collagenous tissue and these are special for the feature to change from a viscous flexible form to a stiff form or reverse.
There are various forms of MCTs found among various marine creatures. Some make the creature hunt a prey, while some help them escape from a predator. Overall the job of the tissue is to change form and facilitate in movements, escapes, hunting, and threatening.
Now, coming to the special tubules which sea cucumbers excrete or secrete; these are expelled through the anus of the creature to shoo off a threat or hunt a prey. The tubules are stored inside their body as small tubes of 2 centimeters each. These can be stretched under internal conditions to a length of 6.5 cms.
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How MCT and tensilin helps
Due to the presence of MCT, the tubules dramatically expand when expelled into the sea water. They increase in length by almost 20 times. And in this elongated state, which is a permanent change, the tubules are sticky and stiff and stick to the body of prey.
This increase in length is due to a special protein found inside the tubes called tensilin. Tensilin is thus the new point of interest for scientists.
If the composition and use of tensilin can be studied in depth, then interesting objects can be made with the same theory applies. Things which can change utility and shape, between sticky to non-sticky and flexible to stiff, and vice versa, will be of great use in many industrial segments.
The prosthetic industry can especially get help, and also many biochemical items can be improved with this.
Like sea cucumbers, starfishes and sea urchins also have similar powers and can produce MCTs in other forms for preying and self-defense.