What’s the strongest material produced by animals?

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

Close-up of a Limpet

Limpets have proven to make a very strong material © fabioveronesi/iStock

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

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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