We report the electron microscopy-based analysis of the major lateral tooth of the limpet Colisella subrugosa during early and intermediate stages of development. We aimed to analyze the structural relationship among the needle-like crystals of the iron oxide goethite, the amorphous silica phase that forms the tooth base and occupy inter-crystalline spaces in the cusp, and the chitin fibers of the matrix. Goethite crystals followed the three dimensional organization pattern of the chitin fibers in the cusp. In the tooth base, spherical individual silica granules were found in regions where the chitin fibers cross. The spherical granules near the interface between the tooth base and the cusp (junction zone) formed an almost continuous medium that could easily be ultrathin-sectioned for further analysis. By contrast, the nearby silica-rich region localized on the other side of the junction zone contained needle-like goethite crystals immersed in the matrix and presented a conchoidal fracture. The chitin fibers from the silica granules of the tooth base were dotted or undulating in projection with a periodicity of about 6 nm when observed by high magnification transmission electron microscopy. Very thin goethite crystals were present in the base of the cusp near the junction zone surrounded by silica. On several occasions, crystals presented internal thin straight white lines parallel to the major axis, indicating a possible growth around fibers. We propose that silica and iron oxide phases mineralization may occur simultaneously at least for some period and that silica moderates the dimensions of the iron oxide crystals.
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