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Armor protects against predators: threespine stickleback


Threespine stickleback / JaySo83 / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

The plate-based armor of the threespine stickleback confers resistance to penetrating attacks due to local structure of individual plates, interlocking mechanisms, plate geometry, porosity, compositional gradients, and surface topology.


"The dermal armor of G. [Gasterosteus] aculeatus serves to protect the fish in different ways, including: (1) resistance to penetrating attacks (e.g., bites from toothed predators), (2) increasing swallowing difficulty and damage to soft mouthparts of predators, and (3) increasing body size when spines are erect, which is an effective deterrent to gape-limited piscivores (Reimchen, 2000; Hoogland et al., 1956). Regarding (1), a penetrating attack generally results in a complex multiaxial stress field below the loading point, as well as potential displacement of the armor unit as a whole via the armor-to-armor unit interconnections (Bruet et al., 2008). Both the local structure of the individual armor units, as well as the microscopic geometry and articulating mechanisms contribute to the effectiveness of protection." (Song et al. 2010:329)

"Aside from evolutionary relevance, detailed studies of the structure and properties of biological armor hold broad applicability to the development of synthetic engineered, protective penetration-resistant materials (e.g., human body, vehicle, and building structure), protective coatings (e.g., exterior paint of automobiles, motorcycles, etc.), construction applications (e.g., pipelines that need resistance to rock penetration/abrasion), and sporting equipment (e.g., helmets, chest protection, etc.) (Arciszewski and Cornell, 2006; Bruet et al., 2008; Ortiz and Boyce, 2008; Yao et al., 2010). Particularly relevant are interlocking mechanisms, plate geometry, porosity, compositional gradients, surface topology, and their relation to penetration resistance and biomechanical mobility (mechanical mechanisms of movement in living organisms, e.g., joint degrees of freedom, ranges of motion, etc.)." (Song et al. 2010:320)
About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxstickleback_gasterosteus_aculeatus_ Gasterosteus aculeatus
Gasterosteus aculeatus Linnaeus, 1758
Common name: Threespine stickleback

Habitat(s): Marine Coastal/Supratidal, Marine Intertidal, Marine Neritic, Wetlands
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: FishBase
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_LC IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Development of synthetic engineered, protective penetration-resistant materials

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Construction, Sports, Automotive industry, Military

Song J; Reichert S; Kallai I; Gazit D; Wund M; Boyce MC; Ortiz C. 2010. Quantitative microstructural studies of the armor of the marine threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Journal of Structural Biology. 171: 318-331.
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