How suture networks improve the protective function of natural structures: A multiscale investigation

B. Alheit*, S. Bargmann, B.D. Reddy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Myriad natural protective structures consist of bone plates joined by convoluted unmineralized (soft) collagenous sutures. Examples of such protective structures include: shells of turtles, craniums of almost all animals (including humans), alligator armour, armadillo armour, and others. The function of sutures has been well researched. However, whether, and if so how, sutures improve protective performance during a predator attack has received limited attention. Sutures are ubiquitous in protective structures, and this motivates the question as to whether sutures optimize the protective function of the structure. Hence, in this work the behaviour of structures that contain sutures during predator attacks is investigated. We show that sutures decrease the maximum strain energy density that turtle shells experience during predator attacks by more than an order of magnitude. Hence, sutures make turtle shells far more resilient to material failure, such as, fracture, damage, and plastic deformations. Additionally, sutures increase the viscous behaviour of the shell causing increased dissipation of energy during predator attacks. Further investigations into the influence of sutures on behaviour during locomotion and breathing are also presented. The results presented in this work motivate the inclusion of sutures in biomimetically designed protective structures, such as helmets and protective clothing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-296
Number of pages14
JournalActa biomaterialia
Early online date28 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


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