What’s the strongest material produced by animals?

Animals can produce incredibly strong substances - so who makes the toughest?

Close-up of a Limpet

Spider silk, long the strongest known biological material, was knocked off the top spot by a material produced by another invertebrate: the common limpet.

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Limpets use a tooth-coated tongue to rasp algae from rocks. These teeth need to be strong to avoid damage, and indeed are several times stronger than spider silk and on a par with the toughest man made materials.

Their strength apparently lies in their structure – microscopic mineral splinters embedded in a protein matrix – which scientists are now trying to reproduce in synthetic materials.


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Main image: Limpets have proven to make a very strong material. ©iStock