The Only Fish That Can Survive Deadly Piranha Attack
The Only Fish That Can Survive Deadly Piranha Attack
(Photo : Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Would you believe it if someone told you that a tiny, less than an inch long, slightly funny looking catfish can survive taking a bite from one of the world's most terrifying fish? Chances are, you won't. But, it's actually true.

One little catfish species from the Amazon can.

Threestripe Cory

(Photo : Buchling by Wikimedia Commons)
Threestripe Cory

The threestripe corydoras, also known as leopard catfish, is one of the smallest catfish species in the world but, these little fishes can withstand not just one but multiple bites from a deadly piranha.

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In a biomechanics laboratory at California State University Fullerton (CSU Fullerton), researcher Andrew Lowe staged what could have been the most one-sided freshwater fish match in history.

They pitted the Amazon's terrifying red-bellied piranha against a tiny threestripe cory.

Varies on its sizes, a regular piranha bite has "a force more than 30 times its weight, a remarkable feat yet unmatched among vertebrates," calling it as strongest bite ever recorded for a fish. 

Andrew Lowe
(Photo : CSU Fullerton )
Andrew Lowe studying the fish with razor-sharp teeth as part of his research project on the material properties of fish armor.

What everyone thought would have been a bloody massacre ended in a shocking surprise when the corydoras survived unfazed. The piranha charged at the catfish until it droved the tiny fish into a corner.

It then chomped down at the catfish for at least 10 times before the researchers decided to stop the experiment.

During the duration of the "battle," the smaller catfish seems to have been unaffected, if not mildly annoyed, by the bigger fish's attempt to kill it.

According to Lowe's mentor, biological sciences associate professor Misty Paig-Tran, the corydoras was not even startled. It did not try to swim away swiftly.

"It's just kind of like, 'What are you doing? Stop ruining my day,'" she said.

Lowe decided to pursue this study as he has always been astounded by aquatic wildlife plus, he also wants to design a potential new material that can be used to create bite-proof wetsuits.

He wants to make a material durable enough to withstand piranha or shark bites but can still remain flexible.

"My research focuses on the toughness, strength, and flexibility of corydoras catfish scales and the bite forces of the red-bellied piranhas," said Lowe, who studied biomimetics, which is the imitation of nature to solve human problems.


Biomimetics is the scientific field that focuses on drawing inspiration from nature to conceptualize designs that create functional materials and systems that resemble biological organisms' function and structure.

"The study combines the two emerging fields in biology and allows me to sprinkle in some animal behavior, too," Lowe said. "During my two years in Dr. Paig-Tran's lab, I have learned a lot about material and mechanical properties, ichthyology - the scientific study of fishes - animal husbandry, public speaking, and teaching and mentoring others."

He is using major biomimetic concepts to create the material.

Throughout Lowe's study, he found that the corydoras catfish's scutes (the bony scales of a catfish) are about as strong as bronze. The catfish can overlap and reinforce the scutes to make their protective armor even tougher.

Imitating the Scales

For generations, humans have been trying to figure out how a fish's armor scale works. Today, many researchers use corydoras and other fishes with similar attributes to design fish scale armors that can function efficiently.

A lot tried and succeeded in developing innovative designs that imitate the mechanics of the scale. Still, not many can say that they managed to create something that works as efficiently as the fish.

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