Meet the ‘wandering meatloaf’ mollusk. It’s teeth are made from a rare iron, researchers say
Researchers at Northwestern University announced the finding of a rare iron mineral in the teeth of a chiton nicknamed the "wandering meatloaf." (Photo: Jerry Kirkhart)
A ‘’wandering meatloaf” mollusk may be in the same family as clams and snails, but watch out for the teeth as new research reveals they contain rare iron.
Researchers from Northwestern University discovered the phosphate mineral santabarbaraite in the teeth of the world’s largest chiton species, commonly known as the “wandering meatloaf” because of its reddish-brown appearance.
“It was very surprising and we didn’t expect to find it. It was more or less an accident,” the study’s senior author Derk Joster told USA TODAY.
The mineral is believed to toughen the teeth of the sometimes 14-inch chiton without adding extra weight due to its high water content and low density, Joster said.
Chiton teeth are more than three times harder than human teeth and one of the hardest materials known to nature. They are attached to a soft, flexible, tongue-like radula, which scrapes over rocks to collect algae and other food, according to Northwestern University.
Researchers found santabarbaraite throughout the chiton’s upper stylus which is similar to the root of a human tooth.
The finding will help researchers uncover how the chiton uses its teeth to chew on rocks and a peer-reviewed study will be published in journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.
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