Piranha Essay, Research Paper
Did you know that there are at least twenty-five different kinds of piranhas? Most
have deep flat bodies, range in color from olive green to blue black, and have red orange
The most dangerous of the species have large very sharp teeth, the upper and
lower set which fit perfectly together. These remarkable fishes have other characteristics
which enhance their biting ability. Their lower jaws are sturdy and they swing shut at an
angle that gives maximum leverage. Their deep flat bodies which offer resistance when
swung sideways through the water add to the leverage. Incredibly large muscles are
attached to the jaws. The muscles are so sturdy that when you that when you look down a
large specimens throat it barely looks like enough room to swallow. When the fish clamps
down on a victim it grabs firmly and twists its body violently until a piece is torn loose. In
a word, the piranha is the most efficient biting machine. Every body part seems to make a
contribution to this function.
Fishing for the piranha in the Guyanas upper Abary River can be very exciting but
very dangerous. The author of Unusual Aquarium Fishes, Alan Mark Fletcher, was
using special heavy shanked steel fish hooks and twice piranhas bit completely through the
strong fish hooks. A man with a pair of pliers would have a hard time snipping through the
heavy shanked hooks. This author has taken many daring risks such as having himself
photographed holding a live piranha in the exact spot where it had just been caught.
While in some places the piranha are extremely dangerous, in others its quite
harmless most of the time. In the upper Amazon River, Indian children swim and play in
the waters that teems with the fish. Yet in Guyanas Abary River one takes a great risk to
place his hands in the water.
Some species of the piranha family, called the Candiru, attach themselves by
means of suction, for which their mouths are adapted. They fasten themselves on their
victim and then painlessly cut the skin and gorge themselves in its blood.
Any of the fish brought to the market at Manaos often show many wounds
inflicted by the piranha. Below the first fall in the Maderia River, it is difficult to take a
catfish which has not been bitten several times by the piranha. The vicious nature of this
specie is becoming legendary. There are numerous accounts of savage attacks on animals
such as cattle being reduced to bones in seconds by a school of piranhas.
At the present time there are many piranhas in the United States. Most pet stores
believe they are lacking something if they do not ” keep one of the monsters.” This has led
to the import of many of these bloodthirsty fellows and much has been learned about
Most dealers have a hard time with this vicious specie because piranhas can
destroy the best of usual nets. A special net must be used, such as one made of plastic
materials, when handling these fish. These fish must be shipped separately or they will
surely tear each other apart. This is in direct contrast to their natural schooling.
Most dealers feed the piranha their dead fishes. As they pull them out of the tank
they merely throw them into the piranhas tank and in a short time they disappear. Some
Aquarists have put their hands in the piranha tank without any bad consequences, but this
is not recommended.
My interest in piranhas come from having one as a pet, while I enjoy it I have a
great deal of respect for it and handle it with caution.
Bibliography World Book P-15 p.497
Unusual Aquarium Fishes by Alan Mark Fletcher
The Secret Lives of Fishes by Bernard Ludwig Gordon
Tropical Aquarium Fishes by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod and Dr. Leonard P. Shultz