Piranhas tend to have a fearsome reputation as vicious carnivores who will attack any animal that gets close to them, no matter how large. However, while they can be fearsome predators, piranhas are relatively cautious and will usually only attack larger animals if the creature is obviously dead or dying. The typical diet for a piranha is composed of small creatures, like insects or fish, as well as seeds and other plant material. In fact, some species are completely vegetarian.
Piranhas are attracted to blood and to agitated water, and scientists believe that most cases of piranha attacks occur when food happens to be spilled in water when people are swimming and splashing around.
More about piranhas:
- Piranhas are native to South America, but are popular as pets and have been illegally released in other parts of the world.
- Theodore Roosevelt was one of the first to describe piranhas in writing, claiming they could strip a cow to the bone in seconds. Today it is known that he witnessed an orchestrated demonstration involving fish that had been starved to make them seem more impressive.
- Piranhas can make a sound similar to a bark, which they use to warn off other piranhas during confrontations over food.