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The United States Air Force has recently been at work studying how a species of fish living in the Amazon River is capable of surviving in the same water as deadly schools of piranhas. The arapaima is a large and slow fish which would be considered as great prey for piranhas if it weren’t for one thing – their scales. Air Force researchers believe that the fish’s scale could lead the Air Force to develop better protection for the force’s soldiers and aircraft.

The arapaima is an air-breathing, freshwater fish, native to parts of the Amazon river. The fish can reach lengths of up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 440 pounds, possibly making it the world’s largest freshwater fish, as reported by Popularmechanics.com.

However it isn’t size keeping the fish safe from other swimming predators, it’s the fish’s scales. The arapaima has managed to evolve strong scales that keep them safe from the sharp teeth of piranhas and other predators. The scales are strong enough to protect the fish, but at the same time are also flexible.

Researchers have discovered that the scales have a hard mineralized outer layer and a tough and flexible collagen-based inner layer. Experiments have shown that tough bites into the fish’s scales deformed the inner layer of collagen, but has not destroyed it.

The Air Force has been interested in how a recreation of an individual scale would protect soldiers and vehicles.

As of now there is no word if the military is pushing forward any prototypes or proofs of concept. The arapaima’s scale are a natural wonder and can potentially help researchers and engineers revolutionize personal and vehicle armor.