Ancient Flesh-Eating Fish Discovered

Oct 30, 2018 By Aaditi P, Writer Intern
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Recently, scientists discovered the remains of one of the earliest flesh-eating fish species in a location in South Germany.

Not only is this discovery rather frightening, but it is actually quite odd because other fish found in the vicinity had chunks of flesh missing from their fins. These observations were eventually connected back to the remains of the piranhas.

The piranhas were found to have razor sharp teeth located along their jaws. Scientists concluded that the predators used them to slice and bite the fins of other bony fish. This discovery is significant because the piranhas, which were dated to be from the Jurassic Age, are incredibly similar to modern piranhas, in their dietary habits.

Why Eat Fins?

Eating the fins of fish is an innovative idea adapted by modern piranhas, as it is a renewable resource and the fins of fish grow back.

This method is much more ingenious then just swallowing fish whole, like some predatory fish and other sea predators do. David Bellwood, a scientist from James Cook University (one of the authors of the study) stated, “Feed on a fish and it is dead; nibble its fins and you have food for the future,” regarding the differences between piranhas and other predatory fish.

Furthermore, what makes this new discovery even more astounding is that the species of piranha that was found has no relation to modern piranhas. This is an example of a type of evolution (known as convergent evolution) where non-related animals exhibit similar traits.

Modern-Day Piranhas

It is true that piranhas have extremely sharp teeth capable of cutting through the skin. However, these animals are labeled to be far more vicious than they really are. 

In fact, there are species of piranhas that are vegetarian, and others that primarily eat seeds to sustain themselves. Modern-day piranhas still eat the flesh of other fish and will eat anything that they have access to - including human limbs. Nevertheless, there have been very few fatal attacks on humans by piranhas in the past several years. 

Nowadays, piranhas are found only in freshwater bodies in South America, especially in the Amazon region of Brazil. This is yet another difference between modern-day piranhas and the flesh-eating, Jurassic-age fish that were found in Germany. Although there are piranhas found in other parts of the world, they are thought to be pets that were released.

Piranhas are also a popular dish in parts of South America. As the species is not considered endangered by the IUCN, they are a sustainable and tasty meal in certain regions.

Sources: Gizmodo, BBC, Newsweek