Guideline River Monsters Season 1 Episode 1 : Piranha

In 1976 a packed coach crashed into the Amazon killing 39 people. When the bodies were pulled out, some had been so viciously mutilated by piranhas they could only be identified by their clothes. Extreme angler Jeremy Wade investigates the piranha.

Subfamily: Serrasalminae

Average Length: From 6 to 10 inches
Maximum Length: Up to 18 inches

Tiny But Terrifying: Piranhas may be the smallest of the river monsters to roam the world's freshwaters, but don't be fooled by their size. The mouth of a piranha, no matter how tiny, is packed with sharp, triangular teeth that are tailor-made for puncturing and tearing the flesh of prey. This fish, working in large packs, can strip away meat down to the bone in a matter of minutes. Locals in the Amazon region often use piranha teeth to make tools and weapons.

Roosevelt's Role in Their Reputation: Piranhas are infamous for having a voracious appetite and an almost frenzied eating style, but some say tales of the piranha feeding frenzy were only exported worldwide after a stunt produced for the benefit of Teddy Roosevelt's visit to the Amazon. As the story goes, locals wanted to provide a good show for the avid sportsman, so they stocked a portion of the river with hordes of starving piranhas. Then they threw a cow into the mass of hungry fish, which quickly devoured it down to the bone.

Maneater or Misunderstood? Some scientists claim that piranhas have an undeserved reputation for brutality and only travel in packs for protection against larger predators. But there is considerable anecdotal evidence — such as the story of a child falling into the river during the dry season and being devoured alive by piranhas — that provides a compelling reason to view piranhas as truly dangerous river monsters.

Jeremy Wade's Tips for Catching Black Piranha: "On this occasion I was using liver, but bits of fish or meat are equally good. It's not delicate fishing. Instead of being quiet, I whisked the water with the rod tip to mimic the sound of something thrashing on the surface. Another trick used by the locals is to plop the bait repeatedly on the surface, the harder the better."

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