One of the toughest environments in which to maintain adhesion is underwater. Water is known as the universal solvent. It tends to prevent adhesion between two surfaces by diluting, dissolving, dispersing, or simply forming an interface between adhesive layers. So how do creatures which God created adhere to objects underwater?

Much to the shipbuilder's chagrin, the mussel is God's champion of underwater adhesive systems. When a mussel wants to attach to a surface, it uses its plunger-shaped foot to find the spot that will make the best bond. The foot then cleans the point where the glue will be attached and then presses down upon the surface, forcing all of the water out. Next the mussel lifts the center section of its plungerlike foot, forming a vacuum to hold itself tightly in place. The final step is for the mussel to pump a chemical adhesive down through its foot, depositing the glue into the vacuum area. This adhesive forms a foamy, shock-absorbing foundation, bonded together with individual threads of glue.

The glue itself is made from several different proteins which are mixed in the correct proportions to provide the optimum combination of strength, flexibility, and compressibility for the selected anchor spot. Scientists believe that the specific proteins used change properties as conditions change. This has recently been coined a “smart” material.

Modern science can learn much about glue by examining the mussel. The mussel is both a wonder of God's design and a sophisticated chemist.

From A Closer Look at the Evidence by Kleiss, October 21.

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