Radula properties in heterobranchs
Molluscs forage with their radula, a chitinous membrane with teeth. Adaptations to hard or abrasive ingesta were well studied in Polyplacophora and Patellogastropoda, but for other taxa there are large gaps in knowledge. Here, we investigated the nudibranch gastropods Felimare picta and Doris pseudoargus, both of which feed on Porifera. Tooth morphologies were documented by scanning electron microscopy, and mechanical properties were tested by nanoindentation. We found that these parameters are rather similar in both species, indicating that teeth are similar in their function. To study the composition, teeth were visualized using confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM), to determine the degree of tanning, and analysed with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, to test the elemental composition. The emitted autofluorescence signal and the inorganic content differed between the species. This was especially prominent when studying the inner and outer tooth surfaces (leading and trailing edges). In F. picta, we detected high proportions of Si, whereas teeth of D. pseudoargus contained high amounts of Ca, which influenced the autofluorescence signal in CLSM. Employing nanoindentation, we determined high Young's modulus and hardness values for the leading edges of teeth, which relate to the Si and Ca content. This highlights that teeth with a similar morphology and mechanical properties can be mechanically enhanced via different chemical pathways in Nudibranchia.