Nature’s strongest material is on a snail’s tongue

Limpet teeth 1Limpets scrape food off rocks with a ribbon-like tongue called a radula. The teeth on this radula have now been found to be the strongest material on Earth.

Covered with tiny ‘teeth’ designed to scrape against the rock, the tongue-like radula scours the sea shore for minuscule morsels of food. Each tooth can be 100 times thinner than a human hair.

The teeth, that spend hours of every day lashing against bare rock, contain geothite. This mineral is arranged in fibres and is extremely strong. What’s more, each tooth has the same strength regardless of its size.

Although limpets seem like they can’t move, they are actually always on the go. Constantly on the hunt for algae, limpets move around removing every scrap of algae from the rock. Not only do these marine snails travel for most of their day, but they always return to the same position. This is called their home scar, and they always find their way back there after a long day of eating algae.

Take a look at this sped-up video of a five hour period of limpet activity condensed into only six seconds.



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Images from Professor Asa Barber, University of Portsmouth