Planet Earth

What Is This? Seashells in a Tar Pit?

Hint: It's hard as granite, strong as steel, and has been used for sword grips and shoe soles.

By Andrew GrantOct 5, 2009 12:00 AM
Image: Robert Clark/Rebecca A. Rudolph, AMNH | NULL

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Answer: Sharkskin

Sharkskin is made up of tiny, platelike scales called dermal denticles, whose strength protects the animal and whose drag-reducing properties allow it to move quickly after prey. The skin’s texture—relatively smooth if stroked from head to tail but painfully rough in the other direction—has made it suitable for applications including sandpaper and sword grips. 

In 2000 Speedo introduced a sharkskin-inspired swimsuit. The newest version, called the LZR Racer, led to so many world records that in July swimming’s governing body banned the LZR and similar swimwear from international competition.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Magazine Examples
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.