Why is the Biological World Shying Away from Metallic Structures?

Exploring the use of metallic structures in biology and metal incorporation in natural systems.

Why is the Biological World Shying Away from Metallic Structures?
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

Metal-loving snails, robust as they may be, are anomalies in the natural order.

Specifically, the scaly-foot gastropod has piqued interest by infusing its shells with iron sulfides, drawing attention to the potential for metal incorporation within biological systems.

But why aren't metallic structures more prevalent in the natural world?

Evolutionary Perspective:

Metals, including iron as the fourth most abundant element in the Earth's crust, are abundant.

Yet, the limited use of these elements in biological structures prompts intriguing questions about the evolutionary aversion to their utilization.

Limitations of Metals:

While abundant, metals possess properties incongruent with biological structural requisites.

Susceptibility to corrosion and density constraints dampen their feasibility for long-term use in dynamic biological systems.

Energetic Considerations:

The significant energy costs associated with metal procurement, transport, and processing make their integration energetically demanding for living organisms, exceeding their tight energy budgets.

Bioavailability and Toxicity:

The bioavailability and toxicity of certain metals pose challenges to widespread metallomic integration in natural systems.

Caution arises from the potential detrimental effects of metal toxicity.

Potential for Future Discoveries:

The pursuit of understanding the scarcity of metallic structures in biological systems is a doorway to deeper insights.

Investigating the interplay of evolutionary, biochemical, and physical factors that have molded the relationship between life and metals holds promising prospects for future revelations.

The enigma surrounding the limited use of metals in living structures presents a fascinating platform for exploration.

It prompts us to delve into the intricate balance of evolutionary, biochemical, and physical factors that have shaped the trajectory of biologically mediated interactions with metals in nature.