Washington, November 28 (ANI): Material scientists are expressing interest in stiff deer antlers as they can be used to build tough weapons.
Curious to find out whether red deer antlers are used wet or dry when duelling, and how this affects the antlers' mechanical properties, John Currey, from The University of York, UK, and his team headed south to La Mancha in Spain to test the mechanical properties of red deer antlers.
But before the team could begin testing the antler's strength, they needed to find out how dry the bones were.
Collecting freshly cut antlers from the university farm and a local game estate just after stags had shed the antler's protective velvet, Currey, Tomas Landete-Castillejos from the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, and colleagues weighed the antlers each week to find out how much they dried.
Amazingly, over the first 2 weeks, the antlers lost a colossal 8 percent of their weight, compared with 1 percent weight loss if they were cut at other times of the year.
Eventually, the weight loss stabilised and the antler's humidity was in balance with that of the surrounding air.
It was clear that the antlers were dry when the stags began duelling.
The team prepared 40 mm long blocks of dry antler and wet deer femur and measured the amount of force needed to bend the blocks to find out how flexible the materials were.
Even though most bones are relatively brittle and inflexible when dry, the team found that the dry antlers are almost as stiff as wet bone, which is ideal for weapons that have to survive a lengthy pushing contest after the initial clash.
As to find out how 'tough' was the antler, applying a force to the middle of the blocks of bone and gently increasing it until the bone broke, the team plotted a curve of the bending force against the amount that the bone bent.
Calculating the amount of energy that the antler could absorb before shattering, Currey found that the tissue was incredibly tough, 2.4 times tougher than normal wet bone.
When Currey measured the amount of energy that the dry antler could absorb in an impact, he was surprised and pleased to see that it could survive impacts 6 times greater than the impacts that shattered wet femur.
The dry antler was tougher than wet bone and ideally suited to survive the stags' initial clash.
So, dry deer antlers are simultaneously stiff, yet tough, making them perfectly suited to their role as a weapon. (ANI)