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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

really cool nature: piranha. {nsm}

I've had precious little personal experience with the infamous piranha, thankfully.
Besides that one time I went swimming in a lake full of them. Yep. I'm brave like that sometimes. Not often, but in my younger years it definitely was a more common occurrence. Of course, I thought only of the alligators that only come out at night and the ten foot river otters. Oh, back to the story: How did we know that the lake was full of piranhas, you ask? Both because our friend told us it was so, AND because he showed us it was so by baiting his line with a chunk of fruit and tossing it overboard. A few seconds and sudden roiling fin-ful water later, we had caught one. Next, he tossed a piece of the hooked piranha over and it disappeared in a matter of milliseconds. Rewind, repeat that a couple times, and we were all fully convinced. This was AFTER the swimming episode. Right. I did not swim again; thank you very much. I'm not that brave.


Note the pronunciation and spelling of that, will you? In spanish we say pee-RON-yah. But in English we SAY, per-ON-ah, but I have to THINK per-on-HAH or pee-ron-HAH (in espanol). I point this out, because you, like me, might have the hardest time remembering how to spell it. The H is silent in Spanish AND English and seems to want to trick us into misspelling it. However, we will not be beat, and we all now know how to spell it! ;)

Basic facts & myth debunkers:

You may have heard the debate about just how dangerous piranhas are. Obviously, as rumor has it, they are extremely deadly. Everyone's heard that, right? Ever since Theodore Roosevelt reported a story of a man who fell off of his horse and was devoured before his companion's eyes*... What, didn't you know that some species of piranhas were actually named Rooseveltialla and Taddyella after him? Yep. I'm not even joking. :) But those names eventually wore off as they proved to identify the same genus of fish that already had been named.

But those who know what they're talking about report, which lines up with the reality as we've seen it for ourselves or as friends have attested to us, that NOT all piranhas are as aggressive as others. They eat both fruit and flesh, and they mainly go after smaller fish, or those that are trapped or wounded. They are attracted by frantic movements and by blood tainted water. But serious injury or death is not common even for regular bathers in these waters. Of course, those people know the rules. If one of you folks goes out and tries to catch one, you might just get bit... this is a more common occurrence, actually, even amongst those who know what they're doing (see video). But, as long as you don't go flailing your bloody body in piranha infested waters, you'll be fine... at least when it comes to piranhas that is. ;)

If you want to know more, The Piranha Book was interesting. If you buy the 1972 version, it contains a progression of articles as the authors, editors and publishers expounded on the original findings with updated information debunking previously published misguided information. Of course, there's much more now to be added, but it's an interesting place to start as it has a lot of history as well as historical and experiential information along with pictures and paintings.

Here's an interesting takeaway... Before today, did you know what an ichthyologist is? Well, ichthyologist is the branch of zoology that deals with fishes. You probably could have guessed that from the context, as I did. But you're on your own for figuring out how to pronounce and remember how to spell that one! Nah, it's not that hard, really, if you want to know. :)

Yes, in FACT my husband is holding his lips to a piranha. Of course, everything's all fun and games 'til someone gets their lips bitten off by a piranha, right? Geesh.

More links:
Alex with a piranha (micah took this video, too)
Cannibal piranhas (another of micah's vids. he's so cool, isn't he?)
This is a 'really cool nature' post. Wanna see what else I'll be posting about? See this post. :)

We're accumulating posts for sharing May's nature studies... Won't you add yours to the list?
Please feel free to share the following image in your post inviting your readers to come on over and join us, too! The more the merrier!! :)



Ellen @ The Bluestocking Belle said...

Neat! I learned a lot from this post. Thanks!

Celeste Cruz said...

All I can say is WOW! :)

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