Piranhas

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Piranhas Piranhas are always seen as voracious fish that attack humans in movies. This is far from the truth. Piranhas are predatory fish that can grow up to one feet and have strong jaws with sharp teeth and are only found in South America. Piranhas are actually omnivorous fish. Piranhas don¡¦t just feed on animals and fish, they also eat fruits, plants, nuts and seeds. While piranhas rarely attack humans, humans are damaging their habitat in the wild. The introduction of piranhas to areas in the Unites States is harming the ecosystem. Conservationists want to ban importation of piranhas in to the United States as pets.

One of the species known as the red bellied piranha is very common in South America. Red bellied piranhas thrive mostly in the Amazon river. Other species thrive in regions known as Orinoco, Guyana, Rio Sao Francisco, Rio Paraguay and Rio Parana ranges.

Piranhas are used as food by the local people and piranha teeth are used for decorations on necklaces. Piranhas do not always live in large groups. Some piranhas live solitary lives. Piranhas usually feed on fish called piracema. Piranha attacks on other animals are not always fatal. Young piranhas usually only manage to bite off pieces of other fish¡¦s fins. Newly hatched piranhas feed mainly on algae and microcrustaceans. Some species of piranhas are not very violent and have much weaker jaws than the common red bellied piranhas.

The main diet of the red bellied piranha consists of a fish known as the piracema.

This species of fish embarks a long spawning migration to their spawning grounds every year. However humans have built dams and other restrictions that block their journey to their spawning grounds. Humans depend on these riverine fish communities for food. Red bellied piranhas depend on them for food. During the dry season piranhas are sometimes stuck in stagnant areas without any water coming from an outside source. The piranhas in this sort of a situation attack anything to get food, including each other. When animals or humans pass by piranhas also snap at them. Other dangerous times to encounter piranhas are when they are in a bloody feeding frenzy in the water. During these times they are not sure what they are attacking and would mistakeably attack a human. Otherwise piranhas rarely attack humans.

The local natives of South America use piranhas for food and jewelry. Piranha teeth are also used by the natives as razors and to cut wood. Piranhas are caught with nets, fishing rods, and even with bow and arrows when in shallow water. Piranhas can also be driven to land with a poison the natives derive from plants. Piranhas are fished for food more than anything else.

In the United States and probably other countries as well, piranhas have been sold as pets. These pet piranhas are wild caught from South America. Pet piranhas are often released into the wild because of the rising costs of feeding them. Especially in Florida, out of all the places piranhas have been released, the piranhas have managed to survive and affect the local ecosystems negatively by eating the fish that thrive their naturally. Such careless releases have made the government put bans on the importation of piranhas in some states. And other states have taken measures to destroy piranhas in their local waters.

Piranhas have always been a fish that strikes fear and mystery into the hearts of people. Movies depict them as dangerous and threatening to humans. Yet humans are the greatest enemies of piranhas. Humans fish piranhas and the fishes that piranhas eat.

Soon piranha populations will begin to drop much like the prey that piranhas used to feast on abundantly. Piranhas released in the United States, especially Florida, bring upon reckless endangerment to an ecosystem. Besides the natives of South America other people should definitely leave piranhas alone.