What do you think is the hardest part of a snail? Is it their exoskeletons? One snail, according to researchers in UK, have teeth made from the hardest biological material ever discovered. Beaver, nah, they’re just good in gnawing woods. This snail make their homes in the rocks using their teeth to dig in.
They are called limpets, which are common aquatic snails. Does it sound familiar? The name may not be familiar to you, but wait till you see the picture. And by just looking at them you wouldn’t know that they have those iron-like dentals hidden under those thick sturdy shells.
They don’t have any coiling structure and belonged to class Gastropoda which is the biggest in phylum Mollusca with over 65,000 species. Two of their relatives are the abalone and the conches.
Limpets have conical shapes aptly described as “patelliform or dish-shaped. “They cling to tidal rocks and survive by eating algae and sea weed when the tide is high. As the tide ebbs, they duck to their individual holes which they carve for themselves in the rock called “home scars.
It was discovered that they have teeth on their tongues, called radulae, which they utilize in scraping away at the rock surfaces where they stay. These teeth are unique since they are made of a composite of protein-mineral material, displaying exceptional strength. It’s even more durable than spider silk and most of manmade materials, with the exception of a few.
“Biology is a great source of inspiration as an engineer,” said the study’s lead author Asa Barber, from the University of Portsmouth. “These teeth are made up of very small fibres, put together in a particular way – and we should be thinking about making our own structures following the same design principles.”
The limpet tooth is less than 1 millimeter in length and contains iron-based mineral called goethite embedded within fibers in a protein matrix. Using an atomic class microscope, Baber and his group measured the force needed to break the tooth material filed to 100 times thinner than of human hair. The tooth material was able to resist the force needed to snap a spider silk.
“People are always trying to find the next strongest thing, but spider silk has been the winner for quite a few years now,” he told the BBC. “So we were quite happy that the limpet teeth exceeded that.”