Piranhas without teeth

July 10, 2007 at 3:00 am 3 comments

1.jpegI remember when I first went to Brazil to check out the Amazon, the only thing I was really worried about were nasty little fish with razor-sharp teeth – piranhas. I’d been watching a film (can’t recall the name) but a scene showed a man deciding to bathe while his friends watched from the shore – cut to underwater shot of blood-thirsty little creatures zooming in on target and resulting chaos amid red-coloured water. I never came face to teeth with a piranha and it seems I might not need to worry anyway.

Reuters brings us news that the feisty little devils are not so fearsome after all. In fact, they could be wimps, gathering together in large shoals to protect themselves as opposed to gathering for the collective kill. Researchers believe that piranhas aren’t aggressive killers but omnivorous scavengers, eating mainly fish, plants and insects. When you think about it, piranhas probably have a lot to worry about because sharing the waters with them are much larger fish: river dolphins, caimans and the giant piracucu.

So when the little critters gather together in a large shoal, this is actually defensive behaviour and a reaction to larger fish probably being in the area. Apparently, this behaviour particularly occurs when the water levels in the Amazon basin are low and the piranhas have no means of escape.

This is very useful information actually – when I next see large groups of people gathering together in an organisation for a meeting, I won’t view this as a “piranha mob” about to announce some restructure or sundry unpleasant news – I’ll look on them as “management without teeth” :)-

Photo credit: Reuters

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Entry filed under: Animals, Education and Awareness, Fish.

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