Learning from Limpets

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Why is important to brush your teeth twice a day? So visits to the dentist will be less painful? To keep your teeth shiny and white? To keep them healthy and strong?

These are all good reasons! But if you were a limpet, you wouldn’t worry about brushing your teeth, even though your teeth would be made of the strongest stuff in the world and worthy of good dental care. If you were a limpet, you wouldn’t have hands to hold your toothbrush, because you’d be a mollusk.

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Limpets don’t have teeth like humans have teeth. They have no jawbone. Instead, their teeth, which are less than a millimeter long, are located on their tongues and they use their teeth by scraping their tongue across the rock on which they’ve decided to lunch, scraping away all the seaweed and lichen as their meal. Sounds yummy, right?

What’s really interesting about limpet teeth, beside the fact they’re found on tongues, is their strength. Before this year, spider web silk was thought to be the strongest biological substance in the world. Researchers recently discovered that limpet teeth are actually five times as strong as most spider silk.

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What does this mean for the human world? Scientists are studying limpet teeth to understand better what makes them so strong and to try and replicate the design of the teeth in devices useful for people. This could lead to improvement in man-made materials that are used in airplanes, trains, and even dental fillings!

Thanks, limpets!