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Monday, March 16, 2015

Species Fact Profile: Red-Bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri)

Red-Bellied Piranha
Pygrocentrus nattereri (Kner, 1858)

Range: Northern and Central South America
Habitat: Rivers, Streams, Lakes, Flooded Forests
Diet: Fish, Aquatic Invertebrates, Fruits, Aquatic Plants, Carrion
Social Grouping: Large Schools
Reproduction: Breed during rainy season, female lays 5,000 eggs on aquatic vegetation, often in a nest built by the male; they are externally fertilized by the males.  Eggs hatch 2-3 days later.  The young are sexually mature at 1 year old
Lifespan: 10 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: Not Classified

  • Body length 28-33 centimeters, weigh up to 3.5 kilograms; the body is grey with silver flecks and some blackish spots.  The belly is red, but a deeper, more intense red in the males than females
  • Sharp, triangular teeth interlock when the mouth is closed which, combined with its blunt face, gives the piranha a powerful bite (the name "Piranha" is from the Tupi for "razor" or "cut the skin")
  • For its body size, a piranha has a bite three times as powerful as a great white shark
  • Piranhas communicate through a series of sounds, such as squeals, low, drumming sounds, and jaw clicks (most of these sounds are heard by researchers when the fish are removed from water)
  • Occasionally piranhas due engage in feeding frenzies, where large numbers will attack a large prey animal and strip it to the skeleton, but these are less common than depicted in popular fiction
  • School of piranhas occasionally prey on humans, but more often, humans prey on piranhas; they are a common food-fish across much of South America.  Other predators of piranhas include caiman, crocodiles, giant otters, river dolphins, and larger fish
  • Common over most of its range; collected extensively for aquarium tried, with its popularity largely due to its fearsome reputation.  Piranhas are illegal to own as pets in several United States; released pets have been found in some souther US rivers

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