I'm trying to write about a species of genetically-altered super-livestock with reinforced bones.

What are some common materials on Earth that a biological organism could ingest and metabolize that would increase the strength of its bones?

Organism can be carnivorous, herbivorous, whatever, but it must intake something that can increase the strength of its bones to at least 1'000 MPa, and that something cannot be fed to it or worked into it via science or engineering somehow.

I was thinking of some kind of calcium carbonate-based material (i.e. seashells) on the inside of a layer of more normal bone; the "normal" bone absorbs blunt force, while the calcium carbonate can withstand greater shear forces.

Replacing calcium in the bones themselves wouldn't work, because I'd need to change the biology of the entire organism to match that.

  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're asking about materials used in existing sci-fi settings rather than asking about creating your own fictional world. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ @sphennings I'm trying to make it seem relatively realistic - i.e. it works with biology as we currently know it. $\endgroup$
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ I suggest asking a more ofcused question about a specific problem you need to solve, how much stronger do you need the bones to be , are they natural or artificial organism, if artificial what technological level is available. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ It probably MPa, or you insist on mili Pa. In short u will have bones of steel? If so then a short answer is - nothing. A longer version could have carbon nanotubes, maybe, $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 7:35
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    $\begingroup$ Biogenic carbon fibers / carbon nanotubes have been used and would seem to meet at least a cursory "plausibility" test (carbon being widely available to biology, at least as we know it). $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 13:13

1 Answer 1


1000 MPa is not doable with biology.

Caveat: "strength" can mean tensile strength or compressive strength. They are not the same. Consider concrete - great under compression, poor under tension. I am assuming that what the OP wants is compression strength. Hopefully not "just strength strength! Great strongness of strength!"

Let us look at materials generally. Note log scale for compressive strength in MPa

compressive strengths http://www-materials.eng.cam.ac.uk/mpsite/interactive_charts/strength-density/basic.html

I had a bunch of clips from various cites but took them out. Take away: human bone has a compression strength of 150-200 MPa and is slightly stronger than cow bone. Better than any wood or plastic, and in the range of porous ceramics which makes sense. Human tooth is stronger yet at 275. I found suggestions but could not get full text to suggest ivory is stronger yet at about 300-350. Those are pretty much the strongest of biological materials and their strength is a combination of their material as well as microstructure. .

To get stronger than a tooth you need metals or ceramics or stone - none of which is produced biologically.

For a sweet fiction where cows had bones three times as strong as they used to be, you could have cows with bones structured like teeth - giant teeth for bones. I think "teeth for bones!" is cooler than "Our old cows maxed out at 120 MPa but these new ones get over 900 all the time!".

But as for the OP wanting a biological material with compression strength of 1000 MPa: I could not find a way to do it with known biology. And I spent way too long trying.

  • $\begingroup$ Some bacterias have the capacity of digesting of carbon nanotubes(seen that be mention but didn't dug it deeper to confirm or for details), soo it may be possible(potencially) to produce it biologically, for a sigle species it sure a way too big of a jump to be probable, but for evolution process it maybe a possible turn. How effective it could be is quite a question. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 8:24

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