Manta rays' mouths hold secrets for wine merchants

Wine merchants, like many professionals who work with beverages, must filter their products before they are bottled for sale - but those filters eventually become clogged with particles.

Cross-flow filtration helps to delay clogging, but eventually the artificial filters currently used in the production of wine, fruit juice and certain pharmaceutical products can no longer handle the build-up of sediment.

But in future, wine merchants and their counterparts in other disciplines where filtering is required could have a new type of cross-flow filter, based on the structures found in a manta ray's mouth.

Scientists at the University of Washington have discovered that these distinctive and elegant creatures filter plankton from the water to eat as food, using a process remarkably similar to the cross-flow filters humans have created for beverage and pharmaceutical production.

Importantly though, the manta ray's mouth never becomes clogged - suggesting that evolution is one step ahead of human science in this aspect.

Researchers are now looking into how this is achieved, with the hope of unlocking the manta ray's secret, and further improving the already-sophisticated winemaking process in the years to come.