Limpet teeth set new strength record

  • 18 February 2015
Powerful limpet teeth Image copyright A Barber / N Pugno

Look at these powerful teeth.

They belong to a limpet - a marine mollusc with a conical shell that clings tightly to rocks with it's muscle.

Image copyright PETER CHADWICK / SPL
Image caption Limpets are a familiar sight in coastal rock pools

'Bulldozers of the shore ''

They are also stronger than the toughest man-made materials.

They're strong, because of the thinness of its tightly packed fibres.

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The tiny teeth of limpets are the toughest material ever found in the animal world

It could help improve the man-made materials used to build aircraft, cars and boats.

"Biology is a great source of inspiration as an engineer," said Dr Asa Barber, from the University of Portsmouth, the study's lead author.

The team ground 10 of the teeth into a tiny dog-bone shapes to measure the amount of force they can withstand before they break.

Image copyright A Barber / N Pugno
Image caption The tooth fragments were filed into small pieces and glued to a lever for testing

The middle part of these samples was more than 100 times thinner than a human hair.

When compared to man-made materials, the limpet tooth is stronger than Kevlar. That's a plastic strong used to make boats, bowstrings, to reinforce tyres.

"Limpets are the bulldozers of the seashore," said Professor Steven Hawkins, from the University of Southampton.

"The reason limpet teeth are so hard is that when they're feeding, they actually excavate rock "

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