Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Dr. David Stock

Second Advisor

Dr. Barbara Demmig-Adams

Third Advisor

Dr. Franck Vernerey


Fish scales are specialized biological structures of current interest in innovative materials design because of the combination of protective function, flexibility, and light weight they offer. This study presents a developmental and functional investigation of a particular fish scale structure, the scutes (bony external plates) of the armored Bronze Corydoras Catfish (Corydoras aeneus). Scutes in this model fish species were analyzed via three complementary approaches. First, scutes were documented throughout fish development via high-quality microscope images. These images were subsequently used to inform fabrication of synthetic models to characterize the relationship between scute overlap and overall bending stiffness of scute assemblies. These models indicated that scute overlap resulted in a 318% increase in bending stiffness. My study also presents insight into how increased bending stiffness could influence the swimming strategy of live larval C. aeneus. By synthesizing the insight from these developmental and functional investigations of the scutes of C. aeneus, my study aims to contribute to a better functional understanding of the evolutionary pathway of C. aeneus as well as inform fabrication of future innovative designs utilizing the unique structure and dynamics of scute assemblies.