Applied Physics A

, 122:253 | Cite as

Correlation analysis of symmetry breaking in the surface nanostructure ordering: case study of the ventral scale of the snake Morelia viridis

  • A. KovalevEmail author
  • A. Filippov
  • S. N. Gorb
Invited Paper


In contrast to the majority of inorganic or artificial materials, there is no ideal long-range ordering of structures on the surface in biological systems. Local symmetry of the ordering on biological surfaces is also often broken. In the present paper, the particular symmetry violation was analyzed for dimple-like nano-pattern on the belly scales of the skin of the pythonid snake Morelia viridis using correlation analysis and statistics of the distances between individual nanostructures. The results of the analysis performed on M. viridis were compared with a well-studied nano-nipple pattern on the eye of the sphingid moth Manduca sexta, used as a reference. The analysis revealed non-random, but very specific symmetry violation. In the case of the moth eye, the nano-nipple arrangement forms a set of domains, while in the case of the snake skin, the nano-dimples arrangement resembles an ordering of particles (molecules) in amorphous (glass) state. The function of the nano-dimples arrangement may be to provide both friction and strength isotropy of the skin. A simple model is suggested, which provides the results almost perfectly coinciding with the experimental ones. Possible mechanisms of the appearance of the above nano-formations are discussed.


Power Spectrum Hexagonal Arrangement Symmetry Violation Distance Histogram Snake Skin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Snake skin material was kindly provided by Dr. Guido Westhoff (Tierpark Hagenbeck, Hamburg, Germany). This study was supported by the SPP 1420 priority program of the German Science Foundation (DFG) “Biomimetic Materials Research: Functionality by Hierarchical Structuring of Materials” (Project GO 995/9-2) to S.N.G. and COST STSM ECOST-STSM-MP1303-010216-071056.

Supplementary material

Correlation analysis of the structure distribution on ommatidium surface in the moth Manduca sexta within a moving circular area. For detailed information see Fig. 1. Supplementary material 1 (AVI 1974 kb)

“Frozen dynamics” simulation of nano-dimple distribution on the skin scales in Morelia viridis. Corresponding correlation analysis is provided. For detailed information see Figs. 4 and 5. Supplementary material 2 (AVI 610 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Zoological InstituteKiel UniversityKielGermany
  2. 2.Department of Electronic and Kinetic Properties of Non-linear Systems, Donetsk Institute for Physics and EngineeringNational Academy of ScienceDonetskUkraine

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