Sheet nacre growth mechanism: A Voronoi model

Marthe Rousseau, Evelyne Lopez, Alain Couté, Gérard Mascarel, David C. Smith, Roger Naslain, Xavier Bourrat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Shell nacre (mother of pearl) of Pinctada margaritifera was analyzed by scanning electron microscopy. The originality of this work concerns the sampling performed to observe incipient nacre on the mantle side. The whole animal is embedded in methyl methacrylate followed by separation of the shell from the hardened mantle. It is revealed this way how each future nacre layer pre-exists as a film or compartment. Experimental observations also show for the first time, the progressive lateral crystallization inside this film, finishing under the form of a non-periodic pattern of polygonal tablets of bio-aragonite. It is evidenced that nuclei appear in the film in the vicinity of the zone where aragonite tablets of the underlying layer get in contact to each other. A possible explanation is given to show how nucleation is probably launched in time and space by a signal coming from the underlying layer. Finally, it is evidenced that tablets form a Voronoi tiling of the space: this suggests that their growth is controlled by an "aggregation-like" process of "crystallites" and not directly by the aragonite lattice growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-157
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Structural Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Bio-mineralization
  • Mechanism
  • Mother of pearl
  • Organic matrix
  • SEM
  • Structure


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