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This homely mollusk’s rock-hard chompers are made of rare minerals

The gumboot chiton won’t scare anyone with its tiny teeth. But chompers of the lumpy mollusk (Cryptochiton stelleri), which is found along Pacific Ocean shores around the world, are among the hardest biological materials known, The New York Times reports. Researchers used advanced imaging techniques to analyze the chiton’s teeth, which it uses to scrape algae from rocks, and found traces of santabarbaraite, a rare iron-based mineral that previously had only been found in rocks, they report this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The discovery could inspire new stiff materials, like ultrahard ink for 3D printers.

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