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Creature feature: Twisting cracks impart superhero toughness to animals

Super-resilient materials found in the animal kingdom owe their strength and toughness to a design strategy that causes cracks to follow the twisting pattern of fibers, preventing catastrophic failure. Researchers in a recent study have documented this behavior in precise detail, and they're also crafting new composite materials modeled after the phenomenon. The researchers studied the enormous strength of a composite material in a sea creature called the mantis shrimp, which uses an impact-resistant appendage to pummel its prey into submission. Shown here: The mantis shrimp conquers its prey with a "dactyl club" appendage, which is made up of a composite material that grows tougher as cracks twist.

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