Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Megapiranha

Artists rendition of Megapiranha
Meet Megapiranha paranensis, a fish four times larger than it's modern day Piranha cousins! While this creature sounds like something out of a science fiction film, it was in fact a real, living fish that swam waters 10 to 8 million years ago.

We know of Megapiranha only from a jawbone and a handful of teeth! These fossils were first discovered in Argentina in the early 1900s, but weren't actually studied until the 1980s. It wasn't until 2009 that the species itself was officially identified and named.

Megapiranha is interesting not only for its gigantic size, but also for the fact that it may explain why Piranhas have the teeth they have today. Presently we have small, carnivorous Piranhas that have single rows of teeth. But we also have relatives like the Pacu, who are herbivores. Those fish have two rows of teeth. Megapiranha has a single row that is zigzagged, meaning it may have been an intermediary species between the two types.

Status : Extinct for 8 million years
Location : South America
Size : Length up to 3ft (.9m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Characiformes
Family : Characidae -- Genus : Megapiranha -- Species : M. paranensis

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