Pisces Conservation: Featured projects: #14 - Piranhas in the Peruvian Amazon


During December 1999 Dr Peter Henderson worked as a scientific advisor for the BBC natural history film unit on an assignment to film pack hunting behaviour in piranha. Peter selected a suitable area of floodplain habitat in the Peruvian Amazon near Iquitos where he thought there was a high likelihood that red-bellied piranhas would be plentiful.
The trip worked out well. With the help of local guides and Peter's fishfinding sonar we selected a small channel leading into a floodplain lake where there were many red-bellied piranha. Piranhas do not instantly attack any animal that falls into the water. However, when stimulated, they can make the water appear to boil as they each rise to take a bite from their victim.   Close-up of the powerful jaws of a large adult red-bellied piranha.

Adult red-bellied piranha.

  The BBC was able to get some good film of a piranha attack on a duck with the final result that the duck was reduced to an almost perfectly clean skeleton! It is certainly true that piranhas can strip a dead body of its flesh in a few minutes. The skeleton of a duck lifted from the water at the end of a piranha attack. There was no flesh left on the otherwise perfectly intact skeleton.

The BBC released the film as part of the award-winning documentary series "Ultimate Killers".
Local riverside community near to the filming site about 30 km upstream from Iquitos.  


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