Saturday, November 13, 2010

Red Bellied Piranha

When pop culture talks about tiny fish that swarm the water and devour everything in sight, they are almost always referring the the Red Bellied Piranha. But interestingly, the reputation of the Piranha as a bloodthirsty killer that will eat a man alive is more or less undeserved. Let's learn why!

(Image Source)
Red Bellied Piranhas (Pygocentrus nattereri) live in the Amazon and in other surrounding coastal rivers in South America. As their name might suggest, they have red coloration on their undersides, and a silvery top.

These Piranhas do have razor sharp, interlocking teeth, and they do sometimes have "feeding frenzies," where a school of them will consume prey and strip it to the bone. But their normal meals includes other fish, insects, crustaceans, and even algae! Don't get me wrong, Red Bellied Piranhas will sometimes feed on much larger creatures, but it's typically because they are sick or injured. In their native habitat, humans are not often bitten by Piranhas, and the Piranhas are often consumed as food!

And despite their aggressive reputation, Red Bellied Piranhas make pretty decent parents. The males and females will protect their nests, and then, after hatching, guard their brood of young for a period.

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