Amazin' Amazon Mystery Animals

Mystery Animal #18 - Answer: Piranha


Beware the jaws of the piranha! The dreaded chisel-toothed, iron-jawed, bloodthirsty piranha will tear through your flesh like a paper shredder through recycled magazines the moment you put your big toe in Amazon waters, rendering you a mere skeleton in a matter of seconds. Right? Wrong!!! Much of what you hear about piranha is grossly exaggerated. Yes, they do have sharp teeth; yes, they do have powerful jaws; and, yes, some of them do eat flesh. But, they almost never ever eat humans. In fact, most kinds of piranha only eat animals that are already dead; some only eat fruit; and only one, the red-bellied piranha, will commonly attack a living animal - usually one that is much smaller than itself, like a frog or another fish. Still, it would be wise to heed the warning, 'Beware the jaws of the piranha,' especially if you are fishing for them. People catch and eat thousands and thousands of piranha every day in the Amazon rain forest, often using a long shafted hook (so it's less dangerous to take the hook out), fishing line with metal wire attached to the end (so the piranha won't bite through it) and  meat, snails or pieces of other piranha for bait. Piranha rarely eat people, but they frequently take a chunk of finger from a careless fishermen before they get eaten by people.
Photos: Copyright 1995 Dennis Pippen All rights reserved.

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