Animals can produce incredibly strong substances – so who makes the toughest?
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 material.