Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.
What Are Features of a Piranha?
You might be the kind of person who enjoys swimming in lakes or rivers. How would you feel about swimming with piranhas? Many people think of these fish and imagine being shredded apart by their sharp teeth. However, these fish aren't quite as scary as they are made out to be. They do have teeth that can shred and slice, but they are not likely to attack people. Dive into piranha infested waters with us as we learn more about this toothy swimmer.
At first glance, a piranha may seem like just another ordinary fish. Its wide body is typically around 8-12 inches long, and shimmers with silvery scales. So what gives the piranha such a fearsome reputation? We must peek inside its mouth to find out!
It is the unique teeth of the piranha that makes it ferocious and feared. Each tooth is triangular in shape and is as sharp as a surgeon's scalpel. When the piranha closes its jaw, its teeth interlock. This creates a scissor-like motion, slicing whatever it is biting into. This is one fish you don't want to get too friendly with!
What Do Piranhas Eat?
Despite their reputation as fierce meat-eaters, piranhas are actually omnivores. This means they eat everything; not just meat. Some of their favorite foods are insects, crustaceans, worms and also plants. In fact, some species of piranhas are strictly vegetarian!
Fortunately for South Americans who use the rivers frequently, piranhas really don't attack people. However, it is a different story if an animal is wounded or weak and happens to fall in the river. To a piranha, thrashing in the water signals a possible meal. And while we might use our ears to hear noise in the water, piranhas are able to sense it in a different way. How do they do it?
A Piranha's Special Sensors
A piranha has a row of special sensors on its body called a lateral line. These detect movement and vibration, and tell the piranha that something is in the water. The more thrashing and splashing, the more interested the piranha gets. And the smell of blood to a piranha is like the smell of fresh-baked cookies to us: irresistible!
Once a few piranhas arrive, the excitement builds and others become attracted. Soon the water churns with fish in this feeding frenzy. Things get so crazy that piranhas will even bite each other. So they must dart in and out to get meat, but not get bitten. It is so fast and furious that piranhas can clean the meat off an animal in just minutes!
Where Are Piranhas Found?
Piranhas live in rivers and lakes of South America. They are often found traveling in large groups, known as shoals. Many people think they stay together to make them more fierce in their attacks. This is not actually true. Piranhas, like many other fish, swim in shoals for their own protection against predators.
Piranhas are South American fish that have extremely sharp triangular-shaped teeth, but they are omnivores, and will eat anything, including plants or an animal in the river if it is wounded or splashing. Piranhas have a row of sensors on their bodies called a lateral line, which helps them detect movement. When a large group of piranhas are eating together it is a feeding frenzy, and when they swim in groups, those are called shoals.
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