The Brave Way of Fishing for Piranhas on the Amazon

On the Amazon, piranhas are a common sight. Feared for their carnivorous appetite and fantastic sense of smell – everything from an open cut to a sudden fast movement can call down a mob of toothy, fanged fish that can reduce an animal to bones in minutes.  However, for those who live along the Amazon river basin, there’s a surprising good use for them – dinner. Here we see a daring young woman fishing for supper with what looks to be a piece of organ meat.  That tender small flap of flesh is enough to entice a small mob of hungry piranhas eager for a quick bite.  Dangling the meat along the surface of the water, this Brazilian is able to snatch up a small bucket load them in a matter of minutes.  Begs the question – do we find them as delicious as they find us?

Piranhas – Where the Pack Mentality Pays Off

In any ecosystem, there’s a natural order to things.  Towards the top of the food chain, we tend to see ourselves as highly skilled and efficient predators.  When compared against the piranha, though, we are only as good as luck and skill permit. Piranhas are fresh water fish which inhabit many South American rivers.  They hunt in schools – or mobs – where they rely upon their keen sense of smell and sound to alert them to the presence of a potential meal. 

In fact, the particular rapid fluttering of a piranha as it launches into its prey alerts the rest of the school to its location.  This is one of the major reasons why on the rare occasion when swimmers are attacked, it tends to quickly get out of hand.  Just as recently as December of 2013, over 70 Argentinians were violently assaulted by piranhas when one took a curious bite of a little girl’s finger.  A full English translation of the news report can be read at the Daily Mail.  What it boils down to is once the first had detected a potential meal, schools quickly became alerted to its findings and soon joined into the feast.

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Biologists and ecologists commonly cite a few factors that contribute to piranha attacks.  The obvious, of course, is blood in the water.  A sensitive ability to smell blood