Frightening Feeding Frenzy of Ferocious Freshwater Fish!

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 3rd, 2010

Here’s the summary for tonight’s program.

Remember, after this evening’s show, next Wednesday is the episode on the Flatwoods Monster. Will MonsterQuest go with another one of Joe Nickell’s “owl” explanations?


WEDNESDAY MARCH 3RD 2010 at 9PM / 8PM central on HISTORY

For centuries the Amazon has been home to a frightening feeding frenzy of the most ferocious freshwater monsters known to man… piranhas.

These fish are said to “mutilate swimmers,” their teeth cut through “flesh and bone” and the “blood in the water excites them to madness.”

Now, these deadly monsters are appearing in US lakes and rivers. 

The MonsterQuest team is investigating how they may be adapting, and whether these carnivorous beasts could breed here and devastate our waters. 

Click here for more information.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

13 Responses to “Frightening Feeding Frenzy of Ferocious Freshwater Fish!”

  1. Dr Kaco responds:

    They’ll go with either the “OWL” theory or “Bear with Mange” ;p
    I still like watching the show though.

  2. PhotoExpert responds:

    I hope MQ does the piranha justice. I hope they do not try to misinform viewers like the video above has done with scare tactics.

    My personal experience is that piranha do not behave in the way the video above portrays them.
    Most of the Amazon River and it’s triibutaries contain very clear water, although it is stained a redlike color by the tannins of decaying leaves. To me, it looks tinted like a tea but clear. There are certain parts of the Amazon River that are muddy due to pollution and silt stirred up by fast moving water. Where the Negro River meets the Amazon River is one example of this. Around the city of Manaus, the water is also dirty with pollution being a contributing factor.

    While living in the Amazon jungle, the only means of bathing was in the river. Our water supply also came from there via means of a sun filtrating system. While bathing in the river, schools of piranha would come over to investigate the splashing. However, they would just look at you and do nothing. They are very inquisitive. I also spent a lot of time standing in the water when fishing. The piranha would come up and just swim around you. My point is, they do not just come up and attack in schools as Hollywood films try to portray them.

    It is true however, that it is prudent to not have any cuts on your body or shave while in the water. You would not want to nick yourself, as it is true blood in the water will trigger an attack. So although we would bathe in the water, we would shave after getting out of the water. The freshwater stingrays were more of a threat than piranha.

    By the way, piranha taste great! They taste like a cross between bluegill and white perch. I believe we are more likely to eat them than they would be to eat us.

    I hope MQ does the subject of piranha justice.

  3. cryptidsrus responds:

    Looking forward to the episode—and thanks for the information provided, PhotoExpert!!!
    Would love to taste some Pirahna.

  4. Sordes responds:

    Yes, the aggresivity of piranhas is often highly exagerated. In fact there are nearly no known attacks of humans at all, even in regions where natives regularly spend a lot of time in the water. Of course they are not undangerous. I have once seen a video of piranhas ripping a small anaconda to pieces, but among all the dangerous animals which inhabit the jungles and waters of the amazonian area, they are by far not the most dangerous. But also the word “feeding frenzy” is not that well-fitting at all. In general it is used to describe sharks or piranhas, but actually a whole lot of other fish show this too, with the difference that most of them don´t have sharp teeth. I have seen goldfish, carps and trouts in feeding frenzy as well as the guppies and some other fish in my tanks. It´s not a matter of aggresivity, but of teeth…if goldfish would have big sharp teeth, they would probably be responsible for a lot of “attacks” on humans.

  5. PhotoExpert responds:

    You are very welcome cryptidsrus. Maybe one day, you will have the chance to taste one of these fish.

  6. mystery_man responds:

    Photoexpert- Hey there, buddy! I found your personal account of piranhas very interesting. From my understanding, in areas where piranhas are found, they are actually a pretty common food fish and are readily found in fish markets. I’d be willing to give it a try. 😉

    Yes, it is unfortunate that pirahnas, like sharks, have become the focus of much myth and misconception. The image of these fish is of huge schools of marauding death machines that strip cows to the bone in minnutes and will nip a digit off if you put your hand or feet in the water anywhere near them. This has been found to be quite patently false. It has even been shown that pirahnas will frequently not attack even if there is blood in the water, something which I would nevertheless be loathe to put to the test.

    They also don’t really typically strip whole carcasses down to the bone in minutes and are far less aggressive than what everyone has been led to believe. They are not even strictly carnivorous, but rather omnivorous.

    Also, as Sordes pointed out, these are not the only fish that exhibit “feeding frenzy” behavior by a long shot. It is a common behavior in many types of fish. The reason sharks and pirahnas get a bad rap for it is because when they do it, it is a lot more frightening and menacing than if goldfish do.

    Yet the image of pirahnas as schools of razor toothed death is firmly entrenched and it is hard to educate people on what they really are like.

    As for pirahnas released into new habitats, it is hard to say at this point what the far reaching effects could be. It depends on a lot of factors, really, such as the conditions of the ecology in the area, other competing fish species, food availability, parasites, diseases, predators, and so on. Often the impact of a non-native introduced species cannot be ascertained right away as ecology is complicated and the addition of a new factor can be, and often is, wholly unpredictable.

    I would say in the case of one or a few individual specimens, the impact on the habitat will be small to nonexistent. It would be a budding breeding population that sould raise concern, and even then it may not be clear if the influence of that population will be necessarily a negative one. However, caution is a good idea in any situation when you have a potentially invasive species breeding in a new environment. The situation should be watched carefully but it is not really something to panic about at this point, I’d say.

    As for the impact on humans, the actual danger posed to people is minimal. If a pirahna is caught in a lake, of course there is going to be a big panic due to the skewed preconceptions people have of these creatures, but the actual danger posed is completely dispropotionate to this. A single pirahna or even a couple pose very little cause for concern. Even in the case of a breeding population and schools of the fish, the danger to humans is not a certainty by any means.

    Yes, pirahnas can be dangerous, and yes they should be treated with respect. However, they are not as bad as their reputation suggests. I’d be more worried about the candiru catfish to be honest.

  7. korollocke responds:

    As I recall very few of the breeds of the razor toothed fishes eat meat and many even eat fruit. I saw one eat berries on an old episode of Nature. I can not validate a nor confirm a single known human fatality linked to them. Leave it to Monster Quest…

  8. PhotoExpert responds:

    mystery_man–Hey buddy! Good to see you out and about at Cryptomundo.

    Yes, you are correct once again. Piranha are a pretty common food fish along with some species of catfish. There is a fish market, close to the river in Manaus, Brazil. At that fish market, you could see all kinds of fish being sold. By our standards, it is probably a market you and I would not shop, unless in times of disaster. That market was not too sanitary, according to my standards. Everything was open to the elements. There were catfish being sold there that I have in my aquarium, only much larger. There were flies landing on beef being sold, etc. You could buy piranha there too. Also, at the local gift shops which are directed at the tourists, you can get these mounted and shellacked pirahna, mounted on little blocks of wood, that are hand written with the words–Manaus-AM Brasil. Heck, I have one of those myself. LOL

    Yes, the locals eat quite a bit of pirahna because it is easy to catch and the locals don’t discriminate against fish, except for one, the jacunda. They hate that fish for some reason and consider it a trash fish.

    While fishing for peacock bass in the Amazon, I caught other species of fish as well. You could always tell when schools of pirahna were in the area, if you were using a bucktail type lure. You would feel this short little nibbles or hits. When you reeled in the lure, the hair had been chomped off. The lure was designed to mimick a baitfish.

    So for me, the pirahna has many of the feeding characteristics of many fish. Like many other species of fish, the piranha investigates splashing noises as a potential meal. Like many other species of fish, the piranha are school fish and will feed as such. Pirahna go after baitfish like other fish. The only difference is their dental work! And they do become much more aggressive when blood is in the water, but so do sharks.

    I am with you on your thoughts as to their introduction into other waters. They would not do well in colder climates. I believe they would be much less aggressive due to cold water slowing down their metabolism, hence their aggressive behavior sometimes attributed to them. I believe herons, snapping turtles, largemouth bass, pike, and catfish would eat them as a food source. Sure, the adult piranha would eat the small offspring or fry of other gamefish but any gamefish found in those regions would do that because of the size of the prey.

    Piranha have small mouths as compared to other foreign introduced species. The snakehead fish that was introduced into other waters definitely can impact the local fish population. They are extremely aggressive and have big teeth. However, their mouths are a lot bigger than the piranha’s mouth and therefore would be more problematic in destroying native fish populations. I could see where the snakehead is a big potential problem and why the piranha may not be that much of a problem as a foreign species introduced into local waters. You can read about the snakehead and it’s introduction into the Potomac River. Biologists have done counts on this fish and it is thriving. They do eat bass and because of the size of their mouth, they eat larger bass which other fish would not eat–hence a potential threat to the bass population.

    Take care mystery_man! And it is always a pleasure sharing information with you.

  9. mystery_man responds:

    Photoexpert- I’m quite fascinated by your experiences and adventures along the Amazon. Thank you very much for sharing!

    Yes, I know all about the snakeheads. I’ve done research into their impact over here in Japan, where they have unfortunately found their way into native habitats. Japan has quite a few endemic species that do not typically fare very well against these kinds of voracious introduced fish. The largemouth bass, for instance, was introduced as a sportfish by unscrupulous anglers and it has just reaked havoc.

    Snakeheads are very hardy and very aggressive. They also breed quite readily, so they can become a probloem in short order. As with the pirahna, snakeheads wouldn’t be such a worry if it was only a few individuals, but they tend to form populations if left unchecked and they just eat and eat. So individuals might cause some damage, but it is minimal when considering the big picture. It is breeding populations of introduced species that are the biggest cause for concern, and snakeheads have demonstrated this capacity.

    Another quite nasty aspect of snakeheads is their tendency to “walk” their way overland. Snakeheads are able to survive out of water for quite sometime, and are known to squirm their way overland to new habitats. So if they are introduced in one habitat, they have the potential to make their way in this fashion to other waterways and thus spread all over the place.

    Luckily, these fish are tropical and as hardy as they are, will probably not do well in colder, temperate areas. However in the warmer locations of Japan where they have been found, they have proven to be quite tenacious and something to keep an eye on.

    Like pirahnas, snakeheads are actually a very popular food fish as well. In China and some other areas of Asia, they are eaten quite often from what I understand, and it is one reason why some may have imported these fish into Japan.

  10. mystery_man responds:

    Photoexpert- I also might add that the size of the mouth on these fish is not necessarily a major factor when considering the negative impact a species might have. For instance in Japan, bluegills have caused all sorts of problems.

  11. mystery_man responds:

    Photoexpert- Sorry for the triple post but I had one more thing to add as well as a quetion.

    With these introduced fish, a lot of the time it is not direct predation that is the main threat to native species. Predation is only one menace that invasive species such as pirahnas can potentially pose.

    Many fish such as the bluegills I mentioned simply out-compete others. They eat the same foods as native species and often just eat them out of house and home.

    Other threats that introduced species can pose are the introduction of new diseases or parasites or even hybridization in some cases. There is a whole range of factors to consider when assessing the threat invasive species pose.

    As to my question, since you have spent time on the Amazon could you tell us if you have ever heard personally of attacks by pirahnas on humans? I’d be interested to here your input on this considering your personal experience on the matter.

    Thanks again, and sorry for all the long posts! 🙂

  12. PhotoExpert responds:

    mystery_man–I see you have quite a bit of fish knowledge too! Yes, I knew that about the snakeheads squirming across land. What I did not know is that they were such a problem in Japan. So thanks for sharing that bit of information. Very interesting. I wonder what they taste like?

    You know, you are also absolutely correct about the parasite thing and competition for food. I was going to bring that up but was unsure if I would be getting too in depth. I am glad you brought it up because I know at least one person would have understood that–you! LOL

    I really enjoy conversing with you mystery-man! We always seem to be on the same page with almost every post. I know have said that before but I will mention it again. It’s like I have a brother that lives in Japan. And I may add, a brother that is a little bit faster than me when it comes to posting. You save me a lot of typing though.

    Have I heard of any attacks on humans by piranha? Hmm, good question! I guess a better question is do I believe any of the stories I have heard about attacks on humans? I think “believe” is the key word here.

    Some of my friends who are avid fisherman told me of attacks by piranha on them. However, after analyzing their story, they were merely trying to carelessly remove a fish hook when the piranha chomped down. I do not call that an attack but fisherman error. I really can’t consider it an attack when the fish is already out of the water. The fisherman who got bit, would strongly disagree.

    As for the descendents of natives or actual native people being attacked by piranha, I have not heard of one story like that. I believe the native people are well aware of the environment and know about the do’s and don’ts when it comes to piranha. I have not heard of any stories like that. As for their descendents who act as camp and fishing guides, I have not heard of any stories either causing harm or ending in death. That would lead me to believe, given my limited experience, that there are none to very few attacks on humans by piranha.

    Now ask me about caymens, crocks, anacondas or fresh water stingrays, and I have a few stories to tell. Yes, I have heard a few of those stories and have been first hand witness to those kind of attacks. I believe they are more frequent than reported.

    But you know, the Amazon Jungle and the Amazon River can be dangerous places. Many things both plant and animal, can be lethal to humans or careless humans. One has to be aware of their surroundings constantly while in the Amazon. It is like your body goes on a higher level of alert and your senses become stronger. You just have to be aware, aware of everything you do and every move you make. I’ll tell you what though, it makes everyday living, very exciting! It is an adventure.

    However, with all the deadly things one has to contend with in the Amazon, it is the little things that one should be most afraid of, namely insects and parasitic infections. Those my friend, can do you in and they take their time. Everything can seem normal upon returning from the Amazon and years later, you have health problems and do not know where they came from. But any smart epidemiologist will tell you, that it started from your visit to the Amazon. There is bot fly, malaria, lymphatic filariasis and a whole host of other diseases one can aquire. It is the things that you don’t see, that can ultimately get you in the end. And sometimes you don’t see it coming until you have a problem months down the line.

    Short answer: No, I have not heard of or witnessed any attacks by piranha on humans.

    See you around Cryptomundo!

  13. mystery_man responds:

    PhotoExpert- Yeah, I suppose I know a thing or two about fish. I was happy that you are familiar with what I’m talking about here and I too hope we are not getting too in depth. 😉

    As usual, great account of some of your experiences down in South America. I really do find these kinds of stories enthralling. That is truly a region of the world that I hope to visit someday.

    Yeah, snakeheads have made their way into some areas of Japan. They are even used as explanations for possible cryptids over here. For a case in point, read the piece I wrote here for Cryptomundo on the cryptid fish Takitaro if you haven’t read it already. Just type it up into the search feature here and you’ll see it. I do hope you’ll read it. I mention snakeheads in there a bit and some of the finer points of the threats they may pose.

    I don’t know how they taste, and I’ve never seen it for sale here, but I suppose it can’t be too bad considering how popular it is in some places. I’d try it though. I’d try a lot of things if they are smothered in garlic butter. 🙂

    As for piranhas, thanks for illuminating things from your own experiences. What you said is pretty much around what I would expect. I suspect that many stories of attacks on humans are either exaggerated or completely made up. For all the menace and fear these little guys have been credited with, in reality there doesn’t seem to be a lot to support this terrifying image. These fish really are misunderstood and have gotten a bad rap. The imagined threat of piranhas and their devious reputation far exceeds the actual situation when they are found outside of their native range.

    All of those other creatures you mention are dangerous to be sure, but for sheer psychological horror, the candiru has to be the worst in my opinion. Yuck. More than anything else, THAT would keep me out of the water in the Amazon.

    Anyway, thanks for the exchange of ideas and stories here. I enjoy conversing with you too and it’s good to see you still popping up here at Cryptomundo, my friend.

    Keep on adventuring.

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