Piranha - a bloodthirsty fish, there are a lot of terrible legends and rumors about it, many terrifying films have been shot. Is she really dangerous, as they say about her? Surprisingly, many exotic lovers keep it at home in aquariums. Apparently, not everyone is afraid of aggressive piranha and for many this toothy person likes.
Origin of view and description
If we talk about ordinary piranha, then this predator belongs to the class of ray-finned fish and the haracynous order. At the expense of the family to which this fish belongs, there are two classifications. One classifies her with the haracin family, and the other with the piranha family. Various assumptions exist regarding the name of the fish.
According to one hypothesis, the word came from the Portuguese language and means "pirate", according to another - from the language of the Indian tribe Guarani, it is translated as "angry fish". People learned about piranha ordinary in the middle of the nineteenth century. In addition to this species, there are also other varieties, the total number of which is about thirty.
An interesting fact: Of all the types of piranhas, only four can pose a threat to humans or animals; more than half of piranhas prefer plant food.
Among the dangerous, just include ordinary and large piranha. Let us describe in more detail some species of this fish.
Common piranha is a danger to people. The length of her body can reach 60 cm, but usually there are specimens from 25 to 35 cm long. Young animals up to eight months of age are very saturated in color (blue tones with dark spots and red fins). Adult fish have a gray color with a silver tint, golden dots are visible on the sides.
During the mating season, the color of the anal fin turns red, and the fish acquires an almost black hue with a reddish belly. The teeth of a fish resemble the teeth of a saw with which it cuts whole pieces of flesh of its prey. The teeth on the lower jaw are larger. Females are larger than males.
Red (red-breasted pacu) has a permanent residence in Brazilian territory and belongs to herbivorous varieties. This fish is very large, its length can be about 90 cm. The color of the pacus is silver-gray, the chest and lower fins are reddish. The tail of the fish is outlined by a dark (almost black) edging. In young animals, dark spots on the sides are visible. The rhomboid piranha has a body shape to match its name.
She chose river basins:
- La Plata;
The fish is about 40 cm long, has a greenish-silver color, and a caudal fin borders a strip.
Slender piranha is the owner of an elongated body, about 30 cm long. The fish itself is silver, and its belly is slightly reddish, its tail with a dark edging. This species lives in rivers such as Orinoco and Amazon.
Dwarf piranha does not exceed 15 cm in length, but compensates for its small size with aggressiveness and predatory habits. There is a small hump on the elongated head of the fish. The silvery body of piranha is decorated with black specks on the sides, and the tail with a black rim. The color of the anal fin is reddish.
Brown Paku prefers to live alone, unlike his brothers, he can be more than a meter long. The color of the fish is brown, grayish, black. These colors on the body of a piranha can be combined to complement one another. The shape of the teeth in brown pack is similar to the human.
Appearance and features
Photo: Piranha Fish
It is clear that each species of piranha has its own distinctive features, but, nevertheless, these fish have many common features in appearance, regardless of species. The body of piranha is flattened on the sides and quite high. The largest fish of the piranha family is brown pacu, its body length reaches 108 cm, and its weight is up to 40 kg.
The smallest variety is silver metinnis, the length of its body is not more than 14 cm. Female piranhas are larger and look much more plump than male ones. But the colors in the coloration of males are bright.
Predatory fish have a rather large head, the muzzle is blunt, and the jaws are very powerful and strong, the lower one protrudes forward. The teeth of the fish are sharp, close in a tight lock when closing the mouth or bite. There are about 66 on top and 77 on the bottom. Piranha’s lips are thickened, they cover the upper part of the teeth, so only their sharp ends are visible. Piranhas, whose menu consists of all kinds of plants, are endowed with molar-shaped rubbing teeth. In pennant piranha, the teeth are arranged in two rows on top.
The tail of the piranha is not very long, it has a strong fin, the notch on which is weakly expressed. The dorsal fin is long, with more than 16 rays. The anal fin of the fish is also long, and those located on the belly are short. You may notice that adipose fin stands out on the ridge of fish; this trait is characteristic of characiform fish.
The eyesight of piranhas is sharp and the scent also does not fail. Her eyes are quite large, equipped with pupils of a dark color. With their eyesight, a fish can catch how a fly or a bee flew over water. The scent of predatory fish is so sensitive that they can smell a drop of blood in a huge pool in just 30 seconds. The side line of piranhas clearly scans any movements nearby.
As already mentioned, the color of piranhas varies not only from species to species, but also with age. In some species, young animals are painted in different colors than mature fish.
Piranha can be:
- greenish gray.
Many fish are decorated with dark spots, stripes, shiny dots. Fins also have a variety of shades.
We figured out what the piranha looks like, now we’ll find out where it lives.
Where does piranha live?
Photo: Piranha in the water
Piranhas prefer a warm climate, so you will never meet them in freezing reservoirs. These fish were widely spread throughout the South American continent.
They live in such rivers as:
These fish were chosen by Venezuela, Guyana, Bolivia, Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay. Piranhas are freshwater, they occupy rivers, lakes, channels, backwaters. They bypass the sea water, as they cannot breed in salt water.
Recently, cases of detection of piranhas in the waters of our country and Europe began to occur. Of course, this was the place to be, but this does not mean that the piranha multiplied and began to dwell in those places where it had not been seen before. The reason for these exceptional findings is the negligence of those who started piranhas at home in the aquarium, and then decided to get rid of them by releasing them into the nearest body of water, not thinking that they would doom the fish to inevitable death.
Piranha usually settles in those places where there is a lot of fish for food, because she is voracious enough. Hunting often takes place in shallow water or where there is a lot of silt at the bottom. Important conditions for them are that the water is well warmed up, fresh, there is enough oxygen in it, and there is also a lot of vegetation. Piranhas love waters with a moderate, not fast current. Sometimes they swim into the sea, but they do not stay there for a long time.
We found out where the piranha lives, now let's figure out what it eats.
What does piranha eat?
The voracity of piranhas is amazing, both of predatory and vegetarians. The predator consumes almost everything that lives in the water column: other fish, reptiles, animals, birds, floating on the surface or flying low over the water. Even crocodiles are afraid of piranhas, therefore they swim over their flock up with their vulnerable belly, substituting the armored back for the fish. Piranha is also eaten by plankton, aquatic insect larvae, amphibians, mollusks, and all kinds of invertebrates. Pennant piranha eats the scales of large fish, not bypassing its relatives.
Piranhas living in the wild do not pick anything from the bottom, aquarium fish eat pieces of meat that have fallen to the bottom. Piranha predators are characterized by cannibalism. Entangled in the networks of fellow tribesmen, they will eat without hesitation. In aquariums, such phenomena also often occur when one stronger individual eats its cousins.
Captive fish are fed with fry, shrimp, a variety of meat, squid, and ordinary earthworms, adding some vegetables (cabbage, potatoes, zucchini, spinach) to the menu. Vegetarian piranhas eat all kinds of aquatic plants, fruits and seeds that have fallen from trees into the water.
An interesting fact: The piranha predator serves as a kind of water orderly, because it often chooses very weak and painful inhabitants of the waters as a victim.
Now you know what piranha eats. There is very little left, soon you will become a "guru" in the field of piranhas.
Features of character and lifestyle
Photo: Piranha under water
Piranhas usually gather in packs of about 30 individuals. Although in some species the school may number about a thousand fish. Predators go hunting at dusk, at night and in the wee hours. Many legends, scary stories associated with piranhas and their bloodthirstiness. It is a mistake to believe that movement in whole swarms is connected with their desire to kill, they exist collectively, on the contrary, in order to defend themselves from other ill-wishers.
The aggressive and conflicting nature of piranhas can be seen by the way they behave among their own, often engaging in internecine wars, fights and mutilating one another. Piranhas spend most of their lives searching for food, because their appetite is enormous.
Piranha hunting is not a pleasant sight, they occupy a prey body with a large flock, tearing off pieces of flesh with their sharp teeth, these fish can be nibbled to the bones in just one minute. Fish very sensitively feel any water splashes, and the smell of blood attracts them, like a powerful magnet.
Interesting fact: There has never been a single case when a piranha completely ate a person, as shown in horror films.
Piranha can bite a person, causing incredible pain, such cases are not uncommon and occur annually. The bite of this fish is very inflamed and heals for a long time, and sometimes people have to amputate limbs because of it. The jaws of piranhas are so powerful that they have no equal among any other animals.
In general, the temperament of these fish is very aggressive, the character is not the best, and piranha does not occupy stamina. In Brazil, they even tried to poison them, but only destroyed another living creature in the pond, and the piranhas remained unharmed. Of course, these are aggressive predators, but many legends and stories exaggerate the level of danger emanating from these fish.
Social structure and reproduction
Photo: A pack of piranhas
As it turned out, mostly piranhas live in packs, sometimes very numerous. But the largest representative of their family (brown pacu) prefers complete loneliness. Sexually mature fish become closer to one and a half years. These fish are characterized by long pair love games before spawning. The color of the excited individuals changes, becoming much brighter, the aggressiveness of the fish during the mating season only increases.
Each fish couple in love has its own isolated area, which they protect from other people's attacks. In the early morning, when the first rays of the sun appear, the female begins to spawn, turning her head down. At a time, a female individual can produce from 500 to 15,000 eggs, the amount depends on the variety of fish. Caviar settles on aquatic plants, the roots of coastal trees, soil, immediately fertilized. Males diligently guard the masonry. The favorable temperature for the appearance of fry in the world is about 28 degrees with a plus sign.
The size of the eggs can reach up to 4 mm; their color can be amber or greenish-yellow. The incubation period can last from two days to two weeks, it depends on the variety and warmth of the water, the result of the whole action is the emergence of larvae. For several days, the larvae feed on the contents of the yolk sac remaining after birth, then they begin to swim on their own.
Even the piranha fry are very voracious, insatiable and grow quickly. Caring parents continue their care until the fry begin to eat on their own. The life expectancy of piranhas living in the wild is about twenty years, in captivity it is even a little shorter.
An interesting fact: Among the piranhas, a long-livers - a red Paku, who lived in captivity for 28 years, are recorded.
Natural enemies of piranhas
Photo: Prey Piranha
Do not be surprised that bloodthirsty fish such as piranhas have many enemies who are not afraid to attack them. They like to enjoy river dolphins, so piranhas are stacked in packs to protect themselves from them at the right time. Arapaim fish and caiman are also not averse to tasting piranha. Arapaima reaches gigantic proportions, its scales are as strong as armor, therefore it is not afraid of piranhas and is ready to have a bite to eat with them, presenting a tangible threat to these fish. Caimans also love piranhas as a dish. Scientists-zoologists have even noticed that with a decrease in the number of caimans, the number of piranhas increases and vice versa.
We must not forget that cannibalism is flourishing among piranhas, so they can easily kill each other themselves. Only herbivorous piranhas are peaceful creatures, therefore, they can fall for lunch to any larger predator, including their relative. An oversized water turtle can also attack piranha.
Surprisingly, the malicious and aggressive piranha itself can experience a strong fright, which often happens to her. At this moment she is numb, her consciousness seems to be turned off, she falls sideways to the bottom, being in shock. In this case, the color of the fish becomes paler. After the fish comes to its senses, it again zealously goes on the attack to protect its life.
A person can also be ranked among piranha’s enemies. In addition to poisoning these fish with poison, people catch them. The Indians eat piranhas as food, and the Aborigines make of their sharp teeth something like knives and scissors.
Population and species status
Photo: Piranha fish
To date, the number of piranhas is not in danger; this fish has a fairly wide habitat. There is no evidence that the population of piranhas has decreased. This fish feels at ease in freshwater reservoirs, where it successfully reproduces. Apparently, this is because piranha is very hardy and unpretentious in food. In addition, fish gather in large schools to protect themselves from larger predators.
Of course, people use this fish for food, but this does not affect the reduction in population. In Brazil, there were cases when the fish divorced too much and they tried to poison it, but nothing came of it, the poison didn’t work on the piranha, it has such amazing vitality. Only caimans can slightly affect the number of fish that they eat successfully.
Therefore, in those places where many of these small crocodiles are divorced, the number of piranhas is slightly reduced. And piranhas become much more there if caimans move to another place of residence. So, the threat of extinction to the piranha family is not threatened, and there are more and more lovers of these exotic fish, so piranhas are increasingly replenishing home aquariums where they feel great.
In the end, it remains to add that it’s not so scary piranhalike a rumor about her. This fish brings considerable benefits to reservoirs, cleansing them of weakened and sick living creatures. Even piranha-vegetarians are very useful, because they also clear the overgrown rivers, eating their vegetation. The great danger to people coming from them is far-fetched and not supported by any facts, which means it is almost unrealistic.