In many cases, however, reported captures of piranhas are misidentifications of pacu (e.g., red-bellied pacu Piaractus brachypomus is frequently misidentified as red-bellied piranha Pygocentrus nattereri). (2018). This extremely powerful and dangerous bite is generated by large jaw muscles (adductor mandibulae) that are attached closely to the tip of the jaw, conferring the piranha with a mechanical advantage that favors force production over bite speed. Which fish is known as a living fossil? The most common aquarium piranha is Pygocentrus nattereri, the red-bellied piranha.  In the state of São Paulo, a series of attacks in 2009 in the Tietê River resulted in 15 people with minor injuries.  On 25 December 2013, more than 70 bathers were attacked at Rosario in Argentina, causing injuries to their hands or feet. Pristobrycon Other fishes are their usual prey, but cattle and occasionally humans are also attacked.…, …of note is the meat-eating piranha, a fish resembling the bluegill that travels in large schools and inhabits the tropical parts of the system.….  Piranhas, especially the red-bellied (Pygocentrus nattereri), have a reputation as ferocious predators that hunt their prey in schools. Updates? Piranha, also called caribe or piraya, any of more than 60 species of razor-toothed carnivorous fish of South American rivers and lakes, with a somewhat exaggerated reputation for ferocity. Most species of piranhas, however, never kill large animals, and piranha attacks on people are rare.  Piranhas will often scavenge, and some species such as Serrasalmus elongatus are specialized scale-eaters, feeding primarily on scales and fins of other fish. Colours vary from silvery with orange undersides to almost completely black. The lobetoothed piranha (P. denticulata), which is found primarily in the basin of the Orinoco River and the tributaries of the lower Amazon, and the San Francisco piranha (P. piraya), a species native to the San Francisco River in Brazil, are also dangerous to humans. , Depending on the exact species, most piranhas grow to between 12 and 35 cm (5–14 in) long. These legends refer specifically to the red-bellied piranha. Piranhas have one of the strongest bites found in bony fishes.  Traditionally, only the four genera Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, and Serrasalmus are considered to be true piranhas, due to their specialized teeth. While standing on the bank of the Amazon River, he witnessed a spectacle created by local fishermen. Pygocentrus "Molecular systematics of Serrasalmidae: Deciphering the identities of piranha species and unraveling their evolutionary histories", Black-finned Pacu Fish, Colossoma macropomum Profile with care, maintenance requirements and breeding information for your tropical fish, In River of Many Aliens, Snakehead Looms as Threat, "City cancels piranha bounty as other fish slaughtered", "Mega-Bites: Extreme jaw forces of living and extinct piranhas (Serrasalmidae)", "Alimentação e ecomorfologia de duas espécies de piranhas (Characiformes: Characidae) do lago de Viana, estado do Maranhão, Brasil", "Tribes of Eastern Bolivia and the Madeira Headwaters", 5 arrested for selling piranhas in Philippines, Piranha Attack In Argentina Injures More Than 70, Fish Tore 'Bits Of Flesh' Off Swimmers On Christmas, "Ataque de piranhas deixa 15 feridos em 'prainha' no Rio Tietê", "Praia no Rio Paraguai tem quase um ataque de piranhas por dia em MT", "Net to take bite out of Brazilian piranhas", "Palmas registra 190 ataques de piranhas desde janeiro", "Balneário no Piauí recebe 100 mil peixes para conter ataque de piranhas", "Homem bêbado morre após ser atacado por piranhas na Bolívia", "Menina é atacada por piranhas e morre no Amazonas", "Girl, 6, dies after piranhas eat her legs when canoe capsizes on family holiday", "Piranhas vermelhas são medrosas e comem vegetais", "Experimentos provam que peixes se agrupam para defesa, não para ataque", "Safety in numbers? They have deep bodies, saw-edged bellies, and large, generally blunt heads with strong jaws bearing sharp, triangular teeth … , A common falsehood is that they can be attracted by blood and are exclusively carnivores. What is the name for the scientific study of fish? Some 12 species called wimple piranhas (genus Catoprion) survive solely on morsels nipped from the fins and scales of other fishes, which then swim free to heal completely.  In 2011, a drunk 18-year-old man was attacked and killed in Rosario del Yata, Bolivia. For other uses, see. , Piranhas can be bought as pets in some areas, but they are illegal in many parts of the United States, and in the Philippines, where importers face six months to four years in jail, and the piranhas destroyed to prevent proliferation in the latter.. brandtii and Pygocentrus nattereri in Viana Lake in Maranhão, which is formed during the wet season when the Pindaré River (a tributary of the Mearim River) floods, has shown that they primarily feed on fish, but also eat vegetable matter. The variation in the number of cusps is minor. La piraña abarca una gran variedad de peces omnívoros o carnívoros de agua dulce que viven en ríos de América del Sur. La coloración de estos peces puede ser plata, roja, anaranjada e incluso amarilla. A piranha or piraña, a member of family Serrasalmidae, or a member of the subfamily Serrasalminae within the tetra family, Characidae in order Characiformes, is a freshwater fish that inhabits South American rivers, floodplains, lakes and reservoirs. Recent research, however, which "started off with the premise that they school as a means of cooperative hunting", discovered they are timid fish that schooled for protection from their own predators, such as cormorants, caimans, and dolphins. Although modest in size, they have short, powerful jaws armed with razor-sharp teeth. This article was most recently revised and updated by, https://www.britannica.com/animal/piranha-fish, piranha - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), piranha - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). Although piranhas are attracted to the smell of blood, most species scavenge more than they kill. , Various stories exist about piranhas, such as how they can skeletonize a human body or cattle in seconds. Newly hatched young feed on zooplankton, and eventually move on to small fish once large enough. The most infamous is the red-bellied piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri), with the strongest jaws and sharpest teeth of all.  In 2012, a five-year-old Brazilian girl was attacked and killed by a shoal of P. Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds.  Most species are restricted to a single river system, but some (such as the red-bellied piranha) occur in several. , Piranha teeth are often used as tools themselves (such as for carving wood or cutting hair) or to modify other tools (such as sharpening of darts). They are often considered a nuisance by fishers since they steal bait, eat catches, damage fishing gear and may bite when accidentally caught. Typically, true piranhas are limited to three species of genus Pygocentrus: P. piraya, P. nattereri, and P. cariba.  Splashing attracts piranhas and for this reason children are more often attacked than adults. Strong jaws combined with finely serrated teeth make them adept at tearing flesh. Piranhas were also spotted in the Lijiang River in China. In movies such as Piranha (1978), the piranha has been depicted as a ravenous indiscriminate killer. This behavior has been documented among several South American tribes, including the Camayura and Shavante in Brazil and the Pacahuara in Bolivia.  In addition to fish (occasionally even their own species), documented food items for piranhas include other vertebrates (mammals, birds, reptiles), invertebrates (insects, crustaceans), fruits, seeds, leaves and detritus. Everyone in the group rushes in to take a bite and then swims away to make way for the others. ", "Rumble in the jungle with Amazon's killer piranha", "Piranha meat could take a bite out of what ails you", How to maintain healthy piranha in the home aquarium, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Piranha&oldid=989002741, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia indefinitely semi-protected pages, Wikipedia indefinitely move-protected pages, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 16 November 2020, at 14:17. , Roosevelt later described piranhas as vicious creatures in his 1914 book Through the Brazilian Wilderness. Piranhas range from northern Argentina to Colombia, but they are most diverse in the Amazon River, where 20 different species are found. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds.  In 2011, another series of attacks at José de Freitas in the Brazilian state of Piauí resulted in 100 people being treated for bites to their toes or heels.  There are claims of São Francisco piranhas at up to 60 cm (24 in), but the largest confirmed specimens are considerably smaller. Omissions? All piranhas have a single row of sharp teeth in both jaws.  Swimming near fishermen may increase the risk of attacks due to the commotion caused by struggling fish and the presence of bait in the water. Los diccionarios portugueses dicen que piraña viene del tupí piraya, en que pirá es pez y aya diente.  In another study of more than 250 Serrasalmus rhombeus at Ji-Paraná (Machado) River, 75% to 81% (depending on season) of the stomach content was fish, but about 10% was fruits or seeds.  Scale- and fin-eating is more widespread among juvenile and sub-adult piranhas. Still other classifications include additional genera, such as Catoprion, or exclude Pristobrycon because that group is not considered by all ichthyologists to be monophyletic—that is, descended from a single common ancestor.  A few other species may also occur in large groups, while the remaining are solitary or found in small groups. El diccionario de la Real Academia también da este mismo origen, del tupi pirá ("pez") y aya ("dientes"). However, a recent analysis showed, if the piranha group is to be monophyletic, it should be restricted to Serrasalmus, Pygocentrus, and part of Pristobrycon, or expanded to include these taxa plus Pygopristis, Catoprion, and Pristobrycon striolatus. The exception is Pygopristis, which has pentacuspid teeth and a middle cusp usually only slightly larger than the other cusps.  The extinct Megapiranha which lived 8–10 million years ago reached about 71 cm (28 in) long, and possibly even 100 cm (40 in).. Research is being carried out to establish how piranhas have moved to such distant corners of the world from their original habitat. When located, the attacking scout signals the others. , Piranhas vary extensively in ecology and behavior depending on exact species. Individual teeth are typically broadly triangular, pointed, and blade-like (flat in profile).  However, attacks have occurred, especially when the piranhas are in a stressed situation, such as the dense groups that may occur when the water is lower during the dry season and food is relatively scarce. Several groups can converge in a feeding frenzy if a large animal is attacked, although this is rare.  The diet often shifts with age and size. Test your knowledge.  A Brazilian legend called "piranha cattle" states that they sweep the rivers at high speed and attack the first of the cattle entering the water allowing the rest of the group to traverse the river. , The total number of piranha species is unknown and contested, and new species continue to be described. Serrasalmus, Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, and Pygopristis are most easily recognized by their unique dentition. Although often described as extremely dangerous in the media, piranhas typically do not represent a serious risk to humans. Ichthyologists often separate the carnivorous “true piranhas” from the vegetarian members of Serrasalminae. The teeth are tightly packed and interlocking (via small cusps) and are used for rapid puncture and shearing. , Although generally described as highly predatory and primarily feeding on fish, piranha diets vary extensively, leading to their classification as omnivorous. Relative to body mass, the black piranha (Serrasalmus rhombeus) produces one of the most forceful bites measured in vertebrates.  In a few species such as Serrasalmus serrulatus, the dietary split may be more equal, but this is less certain as based on smaller samples: Among 24 S. serrulatus from flooded forests of Ji-Paraná (Machado) River, there were several with fish remains in their stomachs, but half contained masticated seeds and in most of these this was the dominant item. Historically, however, other classifications have expanded the group to include four genera: Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis, and Serrasalmus, based largely on the single row of sharp triangular teeth all members display. , Piranhas lay their eggs in pits dug during the breeding season and swim around to protect them. Especially during low water, this species, which can grow up to 50 cm (about 20 inches) in length, hunts in groups that can number more than 100. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. The small flesh-eating piranha generally feeds on other fish but may attack any animal or human that enters the water; its razor-sharp teeth cut out chunks of flesh, stripping a carcass of its meat in a few minutes. , Most piranha attacks on humans only result in minor injuries, typically to the feet or hands, but they are occasionally more serious and very rarely can be fatal. Red-bellied piranhas prefer prey that is only slightly larger than themselves or smaller.  Piranhas have also been discovered in the Kaptai Lake in southeast Bangladesh. Generally, a group of red-bellied piranhas spreads out to look for prey. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Take this quiz.  In February 2015, a six-year-old girl died after being attacked by piranhas when her grandmother's boat capsized during a vacation in Brazil. Many species can occur together; for example, seven are found in Caño Maporal, a stream in Venezuela. Most species of piranha never grow larger than 60 cm (2 feet) long. Estimates range from fewer than 30 to more than 60.  Being in the water when already injured or otherwise incapacitated also increases the risk.  Research on the species Serrasalmus aff. Piranhas are "basically like regular fish with large teeth". Piranha, any of more than 60 species of razor-toothed carnivorous fish of South American rivers and lakes, with a somewhat exaggerated reputation for ferocity. nattereri.  There are sometimes warning signs at high-risk locations, and beaches in such areas are sometimes protected by a barrier. Most species, however, are scavengers or feed on plant material. , When former American President Theodore Roosevelt visited Brazil in 1913, he went on a hunting expedition through the Amazon Rainforest. Premium Membership is now 50% off! Shoaling behaviour of the Amazonian red-bellied piranha", "Can piranhas really strip a cow to the bone in under a minute? Corrections? Although often described as extremely predatory and mainly feeding on fish, their dietary habits vary extensively, and they will also take plant material, leading to their classification as omnivorous. Some fish species have become locally threatened as the worldwide…, …famous of which are the piranhas. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Pygopristis was found to be more closely related to Catoprion than the other three piranha genera. This is probably done acoustically, as piranhas have excellent hearing.  Near the city of Palmas in Brazil, 190 piranha attacks, all involving single bites to the feet, were reported in the first half of 2007 in an artificial lake, which appeared after the damming of the Tocantins River. - Gracias: Helena. Although often described as extremely predatory and mainly feeding on fish, their dietary habits vary extensively, and they will also take plant material, … Catoprion  These legends were dismissed through research by Hélder Queiroz and Anne Magurran and published in Biology Letters. , Characin fishes of the family Serrasalmdae, "Pirana" redirects here. In most species, the teeth are tricuspid with a larger middle cusp which makes the individual teeth appear markedly triangular. It is not uncommon to find individual piranhas with one eye missing due to a previous attack. Black Friday Sale! , Piranhas are indigenous to the Amazon basin, in the Orinoco, in rivers of the Guianas, in the Paraguay–Paraná, and the São Francisco River systems, but there are major differences in the species richness. Save 50% off a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. It is important to keep Pygocentrus piranhas alone or in groups of four or more, not in pairs, since aggression among them is common, not allowing the weaker fish to survive, and is distributed more widely when kept in larger groups. Some rogue exotic fish traders are thought to have released them in the lake to avoid being caught by antipoaching forces. Pygopristis Serrasalmus Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login).  Piranhas are also popular as food. These common fishes have deep bodies, saw-edged bellies, and large, generally blunt heads with strong jaws bearing sharp, triangular teeth that meet in a scissorlike bite. De modo que sería un pez-diente o un pez dentadura. †Megapiranha, A piranha or piraña (/pɪˈrɑːnjə/, /pɪˈrænjə/, or /pɪˈrɑːnə/; Portuguese: [piˈɾɐ̃ɲɐ], Spanish: [piˈɾaɲa]), a member of family Serrasalmidae, or a member of the subfamily Serrasalminae within the tetra family, Characidae in order Characiformes, is a freshwater fish that inhabits South American rivers, floodplains, lakes and reservoirs. Características de las pirañas De acuerdo a su especie pueden medir entre 14 y 40 centímetros o más. , Piranhas belong to the subfamily Serrasalminae, which includes closely related omnivorous fish such as pacus. After blocking off part of the river and starving the piranhas for several days, they pushed a cow into the water, where it was quickly torn apart and skeletonized by a school of hungry piranhas. , Aquarium piranhas have been unsuccessfully introduced into parts of the United States. (2006). (See also Sidebar: Vegetarian Piranhas.) A few can grow larger, with the largest living species, the red-bellied, reaching up to 50 cm (20 in). Piranhas can be bought fully grown or as young, often no larger than a thumbnail. These fearsome predators often occur in large schools and can quickly strip the flesh from their victims. In a review where 38–39 piranha species were recognized, 25 were from the Amazon and 16 from Orinoco, while only 3 were present in Paraguay–Paraná and 2 in São Francisco.