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Animal Strength

February 25, 2011

Mother of pearl gets its strength from the combination of two very different kinds of materials.



Animal feats of strength. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mother of pearl, also known as nacre, comes from the inside of oyster shells and other mollusks. It’s made of two materials, one hard and brittle and the other soft and flexible. In the journal Nature Communcations, scientists report on how the two materials combine to form a super-strong substance. They found that nacre is made of tiny calcite tiles glued together by a stretchy film. The tiles are wavy rather than smooth, so when struck, stacked layers tend to lock together, rather than slide over each other.  Engineers looking to build strong, resilient structures may copy the molluscs.

In other news, researchers using high speed video cameras have discovered how fleas jump. In the Journal of Experimental Biology, scientists report energy stored in a spring like mechanism in the fleas’ bodies propagates down to their toes, which flick downward with tremendous force. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.