Scale performance and composition in a small Amazonian armored catfish, Corydoras trilineatus

The cory catfishes (Callichthyidae) are small, South American armored catfishes with a series of dermal scutes that run the length of the fish from posterior to the parieto-supraoccipital down to the caudal peduncle. In this study, we explore the anatomy and functional performance of the armored scutes in the three-striped cory catfish, Corydoras trilineatus . The lateral surface has a dorsal and a ventral row of scutes that interact at the horizontal septum. The scutes have little overlap with sequential posterior scutes (~33% overlap) and a deep ridge in the internal surface that connects to the underlying soft tissue. The internal surface of C. trilineatus scutes is stiffer than the external surface, contrary to the findings in a related species of cory catfish, C. aeneus , which documented a hypermineralized, enamel-like, non- collagenous, hyaloine layer along the external surface of the scute. Clearing and staining of C. trilineatus scutes revealed that the scutes have highly mineralized (~50% mineralization) regions embedded in be- tween areas of low mineralization along the posterior margin. Puncture tests showed that posterior scutes were weaker than both anterior and middle scutes, and scutes attached to the body required 50% more energy to puncture than isolated scutes. Corydoras trilineatus has the strongest armor in areas critical for protecting vital organs and the external armored scute receives synergistic benefits from interactions to the soft underlying tissue, which combine to provide a tough protective armor that still allows for flexible mobility.