Will piranhas bite human hands in a fish tank?
Sharks may rule the oceans, but no freshwater fish has a reputation quite like the piranha. For good reason. With a ferocious appetite, a tendency to school, and mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, these South American natives have been the subject of many a late night horror movie feature.
Found mostly in the Amazon River in Brazil, there are dozens of different species of piranha. All with strong jaws and a bad reputation. The two most common ones you'll probably hear about are the black piranha and the red-bellied piranha.
Today, Internet wildlife sensation Coyote Peterson is out to dispel some of the myths of the piranha. We're used to seeing Coyote take bites and stings from some of the most ferocious bugs on earth. So, it's not too surprising to see his next stunt is to stick his hands into a tank full of pygocentrus nattereri to dispel some of the rumors about their fearsome reputation. He chooses to do this willingly, even after having already felt the pain of those powerful jaws once while filming on location in South America previously!
Coyote is a braver man than us. However, we also weren't too surprised with the outcome of this experiment resulting in no bites or blood. We had already figured that much of what you see about piranha attacks in the movies is greatly exaggerated for the sake of story. We're still not diving into any river in the Amazon Basin. There are far too many dangerous critters swimming around in there!
In fact, it turns out that despite that single row of sharp teeth, piranhas are omnivorous, much like their relative, the pacu. They feed mostly on small fish, crustaceans, and insects. They also eat nuts and fruits that fall into the water. This is not to say that attacks on humans do not happen. Because they have. In fact, there have been documented cases of bites in Brazil and Argentina. There have even been a few documented deaths, although these seem to be exceedingly rare. Still, we're glad they're a South American fish and not native to the United States. One does pop up here every so often, but most are believed to be released pets that got too big for their tank.
The proof Amazonian piranhas don't target humans came for us after Coyote offered these aquarium fish a tasty morsel fillet and wriggled his fingers around a bit. The piranhas ignored him, their lower jaws never even flinching. In fact, it seemed more like they were trying to avoid this intruder into their tank. Thanks Coyote, for helping dispel a few more unwarranted rumors about the creatures we share this planet with. We look forward to seeing how your swim with the piranhas went!