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New Research Shows Sea Snail Teeth Are Nature’s Strongest Material

Just let that sink in.



There are sea snails that have teeth stronger than spider silk. Who knew? And why does it matter?

The little critters are called limpets. They live in shallow waters and hang onto mossy rocks while feeding on algae. Their teeth have thin material fibers that are packed tightly, resulting in a large volume of reinforcing nano fibers that make them good at gripping things. The limpets have evolved so their teeth don’t get worn down easily. This keeps them from getting washed away.

Let’s compare the sea snail chompers to what was previously known as the strongest natural material, spider silk. The threads have a tensile strength of 1.3 GPa (gigapascals). The tensile strength of a limpet’s teeth is 6.5 GPa. According to a study published yesterday in The Journal of the Royal Society Interfacelimpet teeth have the highest tensile strength ever for a biological material. It’s comparable to man-made fibers.

This discovery could help make synthetic composites better. That means stronger cars, boats, planes, and dental fillings.

(via io9, image via Shutterstock)

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