(CNN) — A rare iron mineral has been discovered in the teeth of a living organism for the first time — one that bears the pet name “wandering meatloaf.”
While it sounds like a tour update for the musician Meat Loaf, this research concerns a large mollusk called a chiton (not a “bat out of hell”). The mollusk, also known as Cryptochiton stelleri, got its nickname because it’s large, reddish-brown and, well, shaped a bit like a meatloaf escaping the pan. It lives along rocky coastlines. The largest chiton in the world, it can reach 13 inches in length.
Researchers were surprised to find santabarbaraite in the mollusk’s tooth because it’s previously been found only in rocks.
Chiton need tough teeth because they essentially chew on rocks to scrape off algae and other food substances. Their teeth are one of the hardest materials in nature and are attached to a flexible tongue-like structure called a radula.