On the Nature of the Transparent Teeth of the Deep-Sea Dragonfish, Aristostomias scintillans

Summary The dragonfish is a voracious predator of the deep sea with an arsenal of tools to hunt prey and remain concealed. In contrast to its dark pigmented skin, the dragonfish is equipped with transparent teeth. Here, we establish the structure, composition, and mechanical properties of the transparent teeth for the first time. We find the enamel-like layer to consist of nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite domains (∼20 nm grain size) embedded in an amorphous matrix, whereas in the dentin layer the nanocrystalline hydroxyapatite coats nanoscale collagen fibrils forming nanorods. This nanoscale structure is responsible for the much-reduced Rayleigh light scattering, which is further ensured by the sufficiently thin walls. Here, we suggest that the nanostructured design of the transparent dragonfish teeth enables predatory success as it makes its wide-open mouth armed with saber-like teeth effectively disappear, showing no contrast to the surrounding blackness of the fish nor the background darkness of the deep sea.