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The Air Force is funding research into piranha-proof Amazon fish scales for future body armor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One of the world's largest freshwater fish is protected by the natural equivalent of a "bulletproof vest," helping it thrive in the dangerous waters of the Amazon River basin with flexible armor-like scales able to withstand ferocious piranha attacks.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday described the unique structure and impressive properties of the dermal armor of the fish, called Arapaima gigas. They said their findings can help guide development of better body armor for people as well as applications in aerospace design.
Diver Alex Reeson checks on the Arapaima or Pirarucu fishes in the tropical section of Europe's biggest freshwater aquarium Aquatis, due to open October 21, in Lausanne, Switzerland October 17, 2017.
The fish, also known as pirarucu, gets up to 10 feet (3 meters) long and weighs up to 440 pounds (200 kg). Arapaima, a fish that can breathe air and survive up to a day outside of the water, inhabits rivers in Brazil, Guyana and Peru infested with piranhas, known for razor-sharp teeth, incredible bite strength and deadly feeding frenzies.
There long has been an evolutionary arms race in which predators develop ways to kill - like sharp teeth - and other animals develop ways to stay alive like the dermal armor seen in various fish, dinosaurs and mammals over time. Arapaima's scales, the researchers said, possess all the best attributes of a bulletproof vest, but the elements are better integrated into one solid piece combining imperviousness and flexibility.
"Such lightweight and tough materials like fish scales are the sexy topics that materials scientists are pursuing," said Wen Yang, a UCSD materials scientist who helped lead the study published in the journal Matter.
"It is true that the natural armor is similar to artificial body armor because of the similar scale overlapping system. However, the natural armor such as these fish scales is tough and much lighter, without impeding body flexibility and locomotion," Yang added. "Remember that the fish scales were developed through hundreds of millions of years. They are very advanced."
The researchers conducted laboratory tests of the scales.
The scales, they found, have a hard mineralized outer layer to resist penetration that is bound to a tough-but-flexible inner layer by collagen – the main structural protein in skin and other connective tissues in the body.
This structure means the scales can become deformed when bitten by a piranha but are not torn, broken or pierced, protecting the fish from injury.
"We were able to see how the collagen fibers deform without a catastrophic failure including the mechanisms of twisting, folding, sliding, stretching, delamination," Yang said.
The study was backed by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
BANGKOK (Reuters) - The United States and South Korea said on Sunday they will postpone upcoming military drills in an effort to bolster a stalled peace push with North Korea, even as Washington denied the move amounted to another concession to Pyongyang.
The drills, known as the Combined Flying Training Event, would have simulated air combat scenarios and involved an undisclosed number of warplanes from both the United States and South Korea.
An opening ceremony will be held Monday on Hawaii island for a military exercise with China that will involve about 100 People's Liberation Army soldiers training alongside U.S. Army counterparts.
This comes after Adm. Phil Davidson, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, spoke on Veterans Day at Punchbowl cemetery about the "rules-based international order" that followed U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II, and China's attempts to usurp it.
Those American standards "are even more important today," Davidson said, "as malicious actors like the Communist Party of China seek to redefine the international order through corruption, malign cyber activities, intellectual property theft, restriction of individual liberties, military coercion and the direct attempts to override other nations' sovereignty."
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to "act quickly" to reach a deal with the United States, in a tweet weighing in on North Korea's criticism of his political rival former Vice President Joe Biden.
Trump, who has met Kim three times since 2018 over ending the North's missile and nuclear programs, addressed Kim directly, referring to the one-party state's ruler as "Mr. Chairman".
In his tweet, Trump told Kim, "You should act quickly, get the deal done," and hinted at a further meeting, signing off "See you soon!"
It is impossible to tune out news about the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump now that the hearings have become public. And this means that cable news networks and Congress are happier than pigs in manure: this story will dominate the news for the foreseeable future unless Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt get back together.
But the wall-to-wall coverage of impeachment mania has also created a news desert. To those of you who would rather emigrate to North Korea than watch one more lawmaker grandstand for the cameras, I humbly offer you an oasis of news that has absolutely nothing to do with Washington intrigue.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will return three captured naval ships to Ukraine on Monday and is moving them to a handover location agreed with Kiev, Crimea's border guard service was cited as saying by Russian news agencies on Sunday.
A Reuters reporter in Crimea, which Russian annexed from Ukraine in 2014, earlier on Sunday saw coastguard boats pulling the three vessels through the Kerch Strait toward the Black Sea where they could potentially be handed over to Ukraine.