The Piranha is an omnivorous freshwater fish that lives in
the South American rivers. They are called Caribes in
Venezuela. They are not a large fish bit they are still are
known for their voracious appetite for meat and their very
sharp teeth. Because of exaggerated tales of their ferocity,
they are a popular denizen of adventure and horror movies.
The Piranha is only found in the Amazon basin in the rivers
of the Guyanas, in the Orinoco, in the Paraguay-Parana and
in the Sao Francisco River systems. Depending upon the
species some certain types are found in broad geographical
ranges and some in just a few.
Because of introduction to local waters by less than
scrupulous aquarium owners they are now sometimes found in
the river systems of the United States as well. They have
been found in the Potomac River system near Washington D.C.;
however they do not survive the cold winters that are a part
of the climate there.
Piranhas have also been found in the Kaptai Lake in south-
east Bangladesh. It is suspected that this happened because
black market dealers of exotic fish released fish into the
lake to avoid prosecution. In this way the Piranha has moved
from its original habitat to distant corners of the world.
The Piranha on average grows to about six to ten inches
(fifteen to twenty-five centimeters) in length. Some
individual Piranhas have grown to eighteen inches (nearly
forty-six centimeters) in length, but this is rare.
Piranhas are shaped flat and wide. They tend to congregate
in groups and hunt during the day. When catching prey the
school swarms over it and shears at the skin of the
creature, cutting small chunks away.
The species of Piranha called Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus,
Pygopristis and Serrasalmus are easier to identify due to
their unique dentition. These Piranhas have a single row of
sharp teeth along both jaws. The teeth interlock and are
very tightly packed. They use the teeth for both shearing
and rapid puncture.
The teeth are usually broadly triangular in shape and
pointed like a blade. Between the different species each has
a set of teeth suited for their preferred prey, and their
teeth set makes this ideal.
Piranhas are well camouflaged by being muddy colored fish
that tend to stick toward the edges of the river. They are
also rather easy to catch and can be eaten.
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