Critter Science

The Science of Animals

piranha

The Infamous Piranha!

The piranha is a small to medium sized fish that lives in rivers and lakes of South America. They have also been introduced to some rivers and lakes in North America and Kaptai Lake in Bangladesh. The name piranha means “fish tooth” in the indigenous languages of the Amazon. The exact number of species of piranha is unknown, but is estimated at over 30. Read more about these sharp toothed creatures of the Amazon.

First the Stats…

Scientific name: Pygocentrus
Weight: Up to 8 lbs.
Length: Up to 2 feet
Lifespan: Up to 10 years

Now on to the Facts!

1.) These fish are typically thought of as voracious, blood thirsty killers that attack anything that lands in the water. However, they are actually omnivores (feed on plant and animal matter) that, especially in captivity, are actually quite shy. I still don’t recommend taking a dip with a school of them though.

2.) They typically feed on snails, aquatic animals, fish, plants, seeds, and fruit. However, they will also happily eat mammals that fall into the water.

3.) Their sharp single rowed teeth can easily cut through a metal hook as their jaws have a bite force of 72 lbs per square inch!

4.) The powerful jaws are capable of crushing a human hand in seconds!

5.) Piranhas are cannibals that will turn on each other if food is scarce.

But wait, there’s more on the piranha!

6.) The main predators of piranhas are river dolphins, birds, turtles, larger pescatarian fish, and caiman.

Did you know…?
Theodore Roosevelt is largely at fault for spreading the rumor that these fish are blood thirsty killers.

7.) Piranhas have specialized fossa, like sharks, that help them detect trace amounts of blood in the water.

8.) If a piranha is found outside of South America it us typically introduced by a hobbyist and they can become very invasive.

9.) There is fossil evidence that suggests that piranhas have lived in South America for millions of years!

10.) They typically go for the eyes and tails of fish when attacking. This tactic is thought to be executed in order to immobilize their prey.

Did you also know…?
Piranhas can also vocalize, making grunts, thuds, and even barking noises! If these sounds don’t threaten an aggressor they will gnash their teeth and attack.

11.) A group of piranhas is called a school or shoal.

12.) Attracted to splashing, noise, and blood these critters typically only attack if threatened, really hungry, or are guarding their eggs.

13.) Female piranhas lay over 1,000 eggs at a time and they are deposited in the sand.

14.) The piranha can regrow lost teeth.

Now a Short Piranha Video!

Learn more about all kinds of cool critters here.

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Critter Man

With over 40 years of critter experience to my credit and hundreds of zoology teaching hours to people around the world, I have amassed not only a continuing thirst for critter knowledge but a desire to teach others all I can about the majesty and wonder of our natural world. Critter Science is a culmination of such knowledge.I have hands on as well as book acquired intel on all kinds of critters. Whether they're on land, sea, or air.I will never say that I know everything about all animals. That's impossible, even for a savant. But, that being said, ask me any animal question and I'll answer it. If I don't know the answer, I'll get an answer for you!Let it be said that I have been oft times accused of loving animals more than I love people. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

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