Biodiversity provides inspiration for technical advances

Posted by Sara King BSc (Hons) MCIEEM on 26/02/2015

Technology and biodiversity are two concepts that are usually viewed as polar opposites. However, the source of technical advances are often inspired from the natural world. Species in particular that have evolved to a certain role or niche provide unique opportunities for us to learn and develop technology and materials. Maintaining high levels of biodiversity will protect the vast range of species and their evolutionary functions, some of which could be utilised to improve our way of life.

A recent example is the discovery that limpets’ teeth consist of the strongest biological material ever tested.  Limpets use a tongue which supports tiny teeth to forage rocks, and often damage the rock in the process. Researchers have discovered that the material that these micro teeth are made from are stronger than spider silk as well as all but the strongest man-made materials. It appears that the teeth are so strong as they are made up with a network of thin tightly packed mineral fibres.

As a result of the discovery, limpets could hold vital information that could inform the development and improvement of man-made materials. Something to ponder over next time you are at the beach!