A piranha is a sharp-toothed fish that lives in lakes and rivers commonly throughout most of South America. They have been described in motion pictures and legends as vicious, bloodthirsty, predators, just waiting to hunt you down. It is also said in motion pictures, and legends that can tear a human to bits in seconds. In actuality, piranhas rarely have attacked people at all. However, piranhas can be a serious problem if introduced into different waters, where they will eat large numbers of native fish, amphibians, and other water animals.
There are at least 25 species of piranha, but scientists have not yet determined the really amount. Piranhas have deep bodies that are flattened on the sides. Most piranhas are olive green (like the Anaconda) but some are bluish black. All have red or orange bellies depending on their color. The most common species are the Black-Eared Piranha, and the Red-Bellied Piranha, which can grow to nearly 1 foot long. All piranhas have razor sharp teeth that they use to devour a variety of prey.
Normally, piranhas swim alone and feed on smaller fish, water seeds, or fruit that are in the water. Occasionally, they swim together in schools. These schools devour larger prey and eat things that come to the water's edge to drink. Some states prohibit the importation of wild piranhas. However, some fishing enthusiasts value piranhas because they are fierce fighters when hooked, and are very tasty when eaten.
Some tropical aquarium owners at first enjoy keeping piranha, but later tire of the expense of feeding them. As a result, wild piranhas have been introduced into rivers and lakes in North America, particularly in the southeast.
Piranhas are in the family of characidae. The red piranhas are Pygocentrus nattereri.
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