Piranhas are saw-toothed and powerful jawed biters with a reputation for feeding frenzy. These fierce and vicious creatures might not be as dangerous as they are popularized in media.
Piranha is a freshwater fish that belongs to family Characidae and inhabits rivers, lakes, floodplains and reservoirs of South America. This razor-sharp toothed creature has a repute for feeding frenzy (which is popular among deadly sharks too); however, they are not all that of ferocious maneaters. Factually speaking, piranha means “toothfish” in the Brazilian language of Tupi people.
They are known as ‘caribes’ in Venezuela. So here are some of the most terrifying facts about the sharp-toothed and powerful-jawed predators ‘piranhas’.
According to the Assistant Curator of Fishes at the National Aquarium in Baltimore ‘Ray Owczarzak’, a 180-pound human’s flesh would be stripped off in near about 5 minutes if 300-500 piranhas come together.
A Piranha’s diet is typically made up of fish, carrion, insects, worms, crustaceans as well as seeds and other plant material. A red-bellied piranha eats nearly 2.46 grams per day: that’s about one-eighth of its average body weight. Bugs, crustaceans and scavenged scraps majorly constitute the largest part of their diet but there could be a change in it depending upon fish’s age and available food sources. And this is why they are classified as omnivorous.
When piranhas are really hungry with food resources being low or competition for food being high, some piranhas can even turn into cannibals. Some have been known to take a chunk out of another piranha, be it living or dead. Weirdly enough, Wimple piranhas feed on fish scales that have a nutritious protein-rich mucus layer.
According to a study conducted in a lab setting, it was found that the red-bellied piranhas mostly began with attacking tail and/or eyes of its prey goldfish. The researchers drew the conclusion that such an attack would lead to effective immobilization of piranhas’ opponents thereby proving useful for survival. (1.1)
Even though they can be bought as pets in some areas, they are illegal in several parts of the US. The import of piranhas is illegal in Philippines and violating this may cost six to 4 years of imprisonment.
One of the fiercest and most powerful biters among bony fishes, piranhas have strong jaws and finely serrated teeth allow them to tear the flesh with dexterity. The black piranha yields one of the most intense bites among vertebrates: its huge jaw muscles that are attached closely to the jaw’s tip favor force production over bite speed.
Piranhas are often described as very brutal creatures in media; however, they typically don’t pose huge danger to humans. And the attacks occur especially when the piranhas are in stressed situations such as during low water in dry season and scarcity of food. Splashing attracts piranhas and that’s why children are more attacked than adults. Most of the piranha attacks on humans lead to minor injuries generally to feet or hands, and they are occasionally more serious and rarely fatal.
The fishers regard piranhas as a true trouble for they devour catches, steal baits, ruin fishing gear and may even bite when accidentally caught.
A lot of stories exist about piranhas including how they can rend asunder a human body or cattle within seconds. They are specifically related to the redbellied piranha. “Piranha cattle” is a Brazilian legend according to which they can sail the rivers at high speed and attack the first cattle entering the water so as to allow rest of the group travel across the river. However, these legends were disregarded through research by Hélder Queiroz and Anne Magurran and was published in ‘Biology Letters’.
In his 1913 Brazilian hunting expedition through the Amazon Rainforest, the former US President Theodore Roosevelt witnessed a scene created by a local fishermen while on the riverbank. After the river was blocked and piranhas were left starving for days, a cow was pushed into the river. This cow was dilacerated and skeletonized in no time by famished piranhas.
Later in his 1914 book entitled ‘Through the Brazilian Wilderness’, Roosevelt presented the piranhas as savage and frightening creatures. (1.2)
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