Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 28, Issue 1–4, pp 17–31 | Cite as

Underwater observations of piranhas in western Brazil

  • Ivan Sazima
  • Francisco A. Machado


The behaviour of three piranha species,Serrasalmus marginatus, S. spilopleura, andPygocentrus nattereri, and their prey fishes was studied underwater in the Pantanal region, Mato Grosso, Brazil. General habits, predatory tactics, feeding behaviour, and social interactions while foraging, as well as defensive tactics of prey fishes were observed.S. marginatus is solitary whereas the other two species live in shoals; their agonistic behaviour varies accordingly, the simplest being displayed by the solitary species. Predatory tactics and feeding behaviour also vary:S. spilopleura shows the most varied diet and highly opportunistic feeding strategy, which includes aggressive mimicry. The solitaryS. marginatus, besides fin and scale-eating, occasionally cleans larger individuals ofP. nattereri. Several cichlid species display defensive tactics clearly related to piranha attacks: tail protecting, watching, and confronting the predator are the most commonly observed behaviours. Piranhas seem to strongly influence use of habitat, social structure, and foraging mode of the fish communities.

Key words

Characiformes Serrasalmus Pygocentrus Predatory tactics Fin and scale-eating Cleaning Social interactions Prey fish Cichlidae Anti-predatory behaviour 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Sazima
    • 1
  • Francisco A. Machado
    • 2
  1. 1.Departamento de ZoologiaUniversidade Estadual de CampinasCampinasBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de Mato GrossoCuiabáBrazil

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