Swarm of carnivorous piranha attacked hundreds of bathers!
Christmas was a very warm day along the Parana River near Rosario, Argentina. Hundreds of city dwellers were trying to escape the 100-degree weather in the cooler waters of a popular beach about 300 kilometers north of Buenos Aires. But then, they began to notice bite marks on their hands and feet.
A swarm of carnivorous fish attacked hundreds of bathers, sending around 70 people to local clinics and emergency rooms for treatment.
The local Director of lifeguards, Federico Cornier, told reporters from BBC and other broadcasters in the area “it’s normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great… This is an exceptional event.”
Cornier said that the fish responsible for the attacks were “palometas”, a type of piranha with large sharp teeth. Dozens of people had their extremities attacked. Paramedic Alberto Manino, speaking with the Associated Press, said that some children he had treated had lost entire digits!
The term ‘palometa’ is a common name used for several types of fish. This includes the Piranha, but it is also used for a Caribbean gamefish Trachinotus goodie and a Western Atlantic fish, the Maracaibo Leatherjacket Oligoplites palometa.
The Piranhas belong to a sub-family called the Serrasalminae, or the ‘serrated salmon family’ consisting of around 60 species. The unmistakable trademark features of the Piranha are their triangular, razor sharp teeth. As described in Piranha: Story of the Piranha Fish from Predator to Prey, these teeth enable them to ‘slice off pieces of meat, fins or scales, literally taking apart their prey piece by piece.’
The palometa that attacked these bathers is most likely the Red Piranha Pygocentrus nattereri, also called the Red-bellied Piranha. This is a very widespread species, occurring in several river basins of South American. Although it typically grows between about 3 to 9 1/2 inches (8-24 cm) in length, one specimen was reported at a whooping 19 1/2 inches (50 cm).
Keeping the Red Piranha in the aquarium is truly a fascination. In the wild the Red Piranha lives in large schools. This type of school is not usually possible in an aquarium, but with the proper environment these fish will show some traits of their wild behavior. In nature the largest fish is the ‘alpha’ animal and in the aquarium it is the most aggressive and bold. The alpha fish will dominate the best spaces in the tank and will basically own the feeding ritual. All other members are subordinate and will take on the traits of servants. Any unwilling ‘servants’ will be quickly and aggressively put in their place by the alpha fish!
Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and animal species write-ups.
Ecologists, zoologists, and other animal scientists frequently enter the wilderness to study their main subject; animals. They patiently sit there and wait for animals to pass by so they can examine how they behave in their natural habitat, and they’ve been doing this for years.
However, observing animals in the wild doesn’t have to be so scientific. Every animal lover can do it. In fact, animal observation has become a popular camping activity, you actually don’t have to be an animal expert. But you should keep in mind the following:
1. Find a good spot.
A good spot is somewhere that not too many humans enter, but, for safety’s sake, isn’t too far away from your hiking or camping area. So how do you know you’re in a good spot? Head for the main trail and if you see more animal footprints than human tracks, then that’s probably good spot. It’s also a good practice to veer off from the main trail, but not stray too far away from it or you might find yourself wandering around, lost in the middle of nowhere. If you have chosen a specific animal to observe, however, conduct some research first to find out which areas it frequents.
2. Build a good blind.
A blind is anything you can use to hide yourself from the animals so you don’t disturb and scare them. It can range from a pile of undergrowth to something as complicated as a store-bought blind that you can assemble and camouflage with branches, twigs, leaves, and stones. If you’re not into hard-core scientific observation and are just into this for pleasure, you can simply tie a piece of sturdy rope across two neighboring trees and lean long branches against the rope.
3. Blend in and be patient.
Try waiting for a couple of days before you go back to your blind. This will allow the animals to get accustomed to it and not get too suspicious about the newly put up structure.
When you decide to return to your blind, be sure that you are not intrusive and that you completely blend in. Wear clothes the same color of nature and do not wear any cologne or perfume. Animals have a very sensitive sense of smell and they can sniff the presence of any intruder right away. It’s also important that you patiently and quietly sit inside your blind while you wait for an animal to come ambling by.
4. Document your observations.
If you are planning to do this again in the future, it’s a good practice to keep a record of what you have observed. Animals follow a fairly rigid schedule so it will be easier for you to catch one passing you by the next time you decide to observe animals in the wild again. Bring a notebook with you and take down notes of the times you saw animals of interest, how many were there and which direction they were heading.
You could also set up a motion-sensing camera that could record the movement of the animals when they pass by. I would personally go for the notebook though – there’s nothing like a high-tech gadget to take away the natural feel of it all!