Unlike barnacles, which cement themselves to surfaces, mussels dangle from a collection of fine filaments known as byssus threads, which allows the creatures to drift out into the water to absorb nutrients. This process would also seem to expose them to a risk of dislodgement via crashing waves, yet this almost never happens.
Despite an outwardly frail appearance, in the dynamic environment of waves and currents these threads can withstand impact forces nine times greater than forces exerted by stretching in a single direction.
Zhao Qin and Markus Buehler unraveled the secret to these natural bungee cords. Their findings appear in the journal Nature Communications this week.