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Known for their speed at stripping the flesh from bodies and their knife like teeth the piranha is one of those animals which has over the years gained a slightly over exaggerated reputation for violence and death. Although the piranha is very well equipped for killing something as soon as it enters the water, like a cow or even a human, piranhas often tend to prefer their prey to be dead or dying instead of having to hunt and kill for themselves. This is called opportunistic feeding. Although this does not advocate you jumping into a river the next time you are in South America, their home in the wild, without considering the possibility they might be hiding beneath the depths it does mean that they are unlikely to start intentionally hunting you down. Piranhas live in shoals, like most fish, and tend to do this for protection from predators. Some species of piranha, such as the red bellied piranha, will stay in a large shoal to protect their leader, usually the piranha with the darkest shade of red on its belly. Red bellied piranhas have scales on their skin which reflect the light and help in camouflaging them from predators such as birds of prey. Although they usually live in areas under the water which are covered in roots from the trees on the bank, Piranhas are still very much at risk from being snatched from the surface and eaten. Piranhas use their small size to their advantage, meaning that they can take a quick bite out of their prey and swim away again. These fish are known to be cannibalistic, meaning that they will sometimes take bites out of each other’s fins and tails and have been known to even eat their own young. For an amazing video of piranhas in action devouring a piece of meat, take a look at the link below.  

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