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Discovery Magazine 11/1/2008

Piranha the Perfect Predator and Scavenger

Maybe you have heard of the small, but ferocious piranha. You might have been told that a group of piranhas in a feeding frenzy can eat an entire cow in just minutes. Maybe you have heard that swimmers are regularly eaten by piranhas and that it is very dangerous to swim in waters where piranhas live. As with most other amazing animals, some of the stories you have heard about piranhas are true, and some of them are made-up.

God designed piranhas to be good predators. Most of them grow to be about eight inches long (although the largest on record is about 18 inches). Piranhas have mouths filled with razor-sharp teeth. In fact, these teeth are so sharp and strong that people use them to make weapons and tools. Piranhas live mostly in the rivers of South America, but some have been found in North America. The ones in North America most likely were aquarium pets that their owners released into the wild.

God gave piranhas an excellent sense of smell, as well as excellent hearing. They can swim very fast, which helps them to catch their prey. Many of the stories about piranhas eating cows or humans are not true. Most of the time, piranhas don’t attack large, healthy animals. In fact, piranhas help keep rivers clean by eating sick animals or ones that die and fall into the water. Many people in South America swim in waters where piranhas live without ever getting bitten at all.

Even though piranhas do not often attack people or large animals, during the dry season when food is scarce, they sometimes will. Groups of piranhas, called shoals (which can have up to 1,000 fish in them), are great team-eaters. Each fish takes a bite of the prey and moves out of the way so the next piranha can move in. Because of this constant movement, the water looks like it is boiling when a large shoal of piranhas is at work. Since piranhas don’t chew their food, but swallow it in large bites, they can be ready to take another bite of food almost immediately. Needless to say, you probably do not want to stick your hand in an aquarium with piranhas in it.

Piranhas have sharp teeth, a good sense of smell, excellent hearing, and they work together as a team. They are perfectly designed by God to accomplish their role as scavengers and predators. Piranhas are wonderful examples of God’s creative genius.

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