Mystery tiny fish can survive deadly piranha bites

Researchers from a Californian biomechanics lab have recently staged two head to head fish challenge, which would have been the most exciting freshwater cage match of all time. The contenders include a terrifying red-bellied piranha with his razor-sharp teeth and a three-striped Cory, who’s catfish is about an inch long and doesn’t care about piranhas.

The encounter was pretty bad to start with as piranha tried to ultimately chop off Cory 10 times, only to deliberately fail in all his attempts. This is possible for Cory because his skin is made of strong armor of scales that possess collagen and other minerals. This helps Cory punch above their weight. This is inspiring scientists to able to make stronger and lighter body armor in the future.

Red-bellied piranhas have razor-sharp teeth that allow them to eat many smaller animals, including fish, crustaceans, and insects. | Image: National Geographic

The unsung hero Cory belongs to the family of armored catfish who spend their life in foraging along the banks of the Amazon River and its tributaries. While using its fleshy and taste bud helping whiskers to forage, these little cuties can be eaten up by otters and pink river dolphins. But when it comes to piranhas, these cuties give a fightback.

To see how the Corys give a fight on a piranha’s razor jaws, scientists introduced three-striped Corys in a tank full of hand raised red-bellied piranhas and thought the outcome of the Corys was grim. But to their surprise, Cory’s held on to the attack, the group of piranhas eventually struggled through to break the Corys armor. They tried after multiple failed attempts to damage the internal organs of the Cory.

Scientists even add that three of the piranhas eventually have their attacks on Cory. That’s how tough these little cuties were, and scientists add that in the wild that these cuties have larger areas to roam around and hide. If these clever cuties escape the attack of one piranha, they live another day to survive another attack. But they give up so easily in the wild.

The reason

If the piranhas had attacked a normal fish, like a Betta or goldfish, they would have been chopped in seconds. This is because their scales aren’t rounded and are made up of cells called odontoblasts, which make up our teeth. But the cells in the Cory are made up of the osteoblasts, the very cells that make up our bone. These hard mineral scales are called scutes, and these mineral layers make the scales hard to penetrate by the bites of piranhas.

An additional soft layer beneath the hard layer also helps them absorb the force exerted by the bites. These natural armors are always fascinating to humans, and therefore they have been trying different ways to understand them. Scientists point out this not something new and has been done since the Han Dynasty and Scythians. As of now, scientists are trying to replicate these nature models by using fishes like Cory as templates to create strong, light, and flexible body armors. Different materials have been used across the world to create various armors, and with more exploration, we can create wonders in the field of the body protecting armors in the future.

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Source: National Geographic

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