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What the Fish? Episode 12: A Fish in Shining Armor

A Fish Can Be Encased in Armor?

Although they vary in size, morphology, and type (e.g., plates, scutes), many fishes have evolved thick armor-like scales that help protect them from their aquatic environment and potential predators. Many fishes that live in and around the bed of aquatic environments utilize armor to protect their bodies from loosing scales as they burrow and scrape along rough substrates and potentially rocky or jagged environments, such as catfishes and poachers. Other armored fishes may sacrifice mobility for a tank-like body that makes them nearly inedible to nearby predators. For example, the aptly named boxfishes have scales are hexagonal in shape and result in an armor that looks like a bee's honeycomb. The body armor of fishes are so effective that various scientists and researchers have been investigating the morphological properties of fish scales, such as those in bichirs, to aid with the development of stronger body armor for humans!


Fish of the Week: Sturgeon Poacher (Podothecus accipenserinus)


Family: Agonidae

Distribution: Predominantly temperate locations in the North Pacific and east Bering Sea.

Size: Can reach lengths of nearly 1 ft long.

Fun Fact: Body covered in protective armor from modified scales.

Poachers are predominantly found living on the bottom in temperate waters in the northern hemisphere. While occasionally found in shallow waters, many poachers are often found in deep-water environments. The body of poachers are elongated, with a thick covering of armor-like body plates that are formed from modified scales. Another distinguishing feature of poachers are their greatly enlarged pectoral fins that they use for navigating their environment. The sturgeon poacher uses its highly sensitive barbels to hunt invertebrates and small fishes.

Questions?

You can download or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, follow us on Twitter, and tweet us your fishy questions @FM_WhatTheFish, or email us at whatthefish@fieldmuseum.org.

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Fish Nerds Podcast Team:
Beth Sanzenbacher
Eric Ahlgren
Leo Smith
Matthew P. Davis