In fishes, the skin and scales provide a physical barrier to the external environment and must withstand direct physical insult from biotic and abiotic features of the habitat. Flatfishes likely rely heavily on their scales for physical defense because they rest directly on the substrate. Using a flatfish model, we asked: what are the effects of scale type and scale morphology on puncture force resistance? We also asked: are there morphological and functional differences between the eyed and blind sides in flatfishes and do the morphological and functional properties of scales vary with organism size? Using a large size range of three species of Pleuronectid flatfish (Isopsetta isolepis, n=10; Parophrys vetulus, n=10; and Platichthys stellatus, n=12), we measured the force required to puncture the integument using a sample of skin+scales taken from the eyed and blind side of each individual. We also measured the diameter, area, and thickness of the scales of each individual. Scaling relationships (body length vs. variable of interest) were derived for each species and compared with a priori expectations of geometric similarity. We found no relationship between scale type and puncture resistance and no differences in morphological parameters or puncture resistance between the eyed and blind side within a given species. These flatfish species do vary in their ability to withstand puncture forces; however, once scale thickness is taken into account, species differences disappear. Thus, the ability of a flatfish to withstand mechanical insult from puncture-forces varies depending on the thickness of the scale.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Plant Science