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Like the title says, could a creature use metals absorbed through consumption to harden its natural armor? Metals and minerals that would be available would be similar to those on Earth (iron, aluminum, titanium, etc.) The creature's natural armor would be similar to that of armadillos.

By harden, I mean enough to resist small to medium size arms (.308 to 7.62x51) fire.

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  • $\begingroup$ See Limpet teeth $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 18 '17 at 6:54
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    $\begingroup$ Metallic? No. As an exoskeleton, made of (Ca, Al, Si, ...)oxides: No problem, nature has done that numereous times $\endgroup$ – Karl Jan 18 '17 at 6:55
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    $\begingroup$ Related: Could a creature evolve a biological “bulletproof vest”? $\endgroup$ – a CVn Jan 18 '17 at 8:04
  • $\begingroup$ Why not if an oyster can produce a pearl I suspect maybe nature can weave itself a metallic armor too... $\endgroup$ – user6760 Jan 18 '17 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ Calcium is a metal. Snails, clams and many other animal classes already done that. $\endgroup$ – M i ech Jan 18 '17 at 14:24
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There's an animal that does something similar to this: the Scaly-foot gastropod https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaly-foot_gastropod. Its a mollusc that lives in deep-sea vents which incorporates Iron Sulphates into its shell & skeleton.

I'm not sure how tough it makes then, but it shows that what you're asking is possible in some shape or form.

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I don't see any reason creatures like that couldn't exist. But practically speaking, there's a cost to running around in a heavy suit of natural armor, and for creatures like this to develop there would need to be commensurate selective pressure.

If there were lots of predators hunting with small arms (or better get, hunting with BB guns, slowly increasing over a long time to larger force and caliber) then no doubt creatures would gain son sort of defense, possibly metal-based armor. Actually I think other kinds of defenses would develop more rapidly -- fast movement, high reproductive rate, etc. -- but if the selective pressure was appropriate it seems highly likely.

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You could certainly posit an evolutionary branch that developed the ability to deposit metal in some form of natural armor. You would need to propose a mechanism for the metal to be refined into a useful format by the biological process. This could perhaps be some form of rite of passage? Perhaps the armor could be "grown" then the creature could as part of it's lifecycle go through some radical action to "temper" the armor. Or perhaps the armor could be tempered by chemicals secreted or applied.

Interestingly there are some creatures on earth that make use of metals eg: https://biology.stackexchange.com/a/9442 In that same question/ answer sequence there are several other creatures that use metal to some degree in their biological functions - this would give you quite a few ideas for how to present a believable method of obtaining metal in a creatures armor.

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To be an advantage on a living being, a shield has to offer protection but not give a burden to movements: this rules out too heavy shields made of metal.

The living being may develop the ability to generate carbon based fibers offering protection to its body. FYI cobweb fiber is already much better than steel at absorbing energy, and weight much less.

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