Two unassuming seaweed species which grow in New Zealand waters could be the key to making medical superglue which works in wet conditions.
It's the latest in a new frontier of mimicking features found in nature to design new products for industries ranging from medicine to defence.
The study from the Universities of Canterbury and Otago looked at the closely related Durvillaea antarctica and Hormosira banksii, both of which thrive in the inter-tidal zone where the drag from the water is strong.
The Durvillaea antarctica has been called the strongest kelp in the world and can grow more than 10m long and weigh more than 50kg, yet is still able to get a strong and long-lasting grip on its growing surface.
The study's authors say its ability to withstand the force of the wave actions make the brown algae "especially interesting" for bioadhesion, which humans are still struggling to copy.
They found the seaweed, which lives in the South Pacific, produced a strong glue which is triggered by fertilisation to ensure the best survival rate in their harsh environment.
Another protein-based adhesive is produced in the early developmental stages of the plants.
"Nature offers an extensive range of biological species with adhesive capabilities that can be sourced to seek ideas and inspiration," the study says.
Mussels, barnacles, sea urchins and starfish are among the organisms which have "very elegantly achieved" underwater adhesion.
The researchers say the seaweed zygotes need more investigation into how the glue they produce works and attaches to surfaces.
The study was published by the Royal Society today.