What the Fuck are Limpet Teeth?
Spider silk used to be the strongest known bio-material. According to a recent study published in the Royal Society’s journal Interface, that superlative now goes to -you guessed it- the teeth of a limpet.
You probably have no idea what the fuck a limpet is. That’s not true. You probably ALL know what a limpet is, but I definitely didn’t until I read this article at Design & Trend. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know what it was after I read it either because the article didn’t really explain the whole what it was, just the teeth. I figured that my lack of knowledge qualified this animal for this week’s post in the column formerly known as Weird Wildlife Wednesday.
A limpet is a common name for sea snails with conical shapes. They look like little mini-volcanos. It basically refers to any gastropod that doesn’t have a coiled shell.
Honestly, I looked at the picture and thought it was a barnacle. I was wrong. In fact, the distinction between barnacles and limpets is that creatures like mussels and barnacles remain fixed to one place whereas limpets can move around by their own effort. They do, however, cling very hard to surfaces as needed to counteract tidal motion and strong waves.
So about these teeth. The limpets use their tongue which is covered in tiny teeth (gross) to scrape algae off of hard surfaces as they eat. When chemically evaluated, the researchers discovered that it is five-times stronger that spider silk due to ultra-thin, tightly-clustered, mineral fibers arranged in a very particular way. The fibers are made from goethite, an iron-based mineral with a protein base that resembles the way plastic can be reinforced by carbon fiber. The tensile strength of the material (measured by the pressure required to overwhelm the material), is roughly equivalent to the amount of pressure required to turn carbon into a diamond within the earth’s crust. This means that a strand the thickness of a piece of spaghetti could hold up my entire car. Basically, you really don’t want this thing to lick you.
Image: Asa H. Barber et al / University of Portsmouth.