Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 11–19 | Cite as

Reproductive strategies of Red-bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri Kner, 1858) in the white waters of the Mamirauá flooded forest, central Brazilian Amazon

  • Helder Lima QueirozEmail author
  • Marcela B. Sobanski
  • Anne E. Magurran


Despite being an important member of neotropical fish assemblages, as well as a species with an unenviable reputation, little is known about the reproductive ecology of Red-bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri, in the wild. We tracked the reproductive activity of piranhas in the flooded forests of Mamirauá Reserve, Central Brazilian Amazon, for 2 years, in an investigation that included over 3,000 individual fish. Contrary to expectation piranhas had not one, but rather two annual reproductive seasons, tuned to water level fluctuation and the flooding pulse. Females were found to have up to 30,000 oocytes, little more than one third of which were mature and available for spawning in a single batch. Sexual maturation (of both males and females) occurred at around 160 mm. At this point sexually active individuals (of both sexes) became dark and lost most of their red coloration. Ontogenetic changes in habitat selection were strongly associated with the spawning behavior of mature adults. We also found that flooded marginal vegetation and marginal grasses inside lakes were the preferred spawning areas. In contrast, non-reproductive individuals were found in open water and under floating meadows.


Red-bellied Piranha Pygocentrus Serrasalminae Reproductive biology Life-history strategies Amazon 



We thank the many fishermen of Mamirauá Reserve who helped us sample animals, and those that assisted in data collection, especially Danielle Pedrociani Cavalcante, Jonas Martins e Franciney Martins. Maurício Camargo and Alexandre Hercos made insightful comments and made suggestions for improving an earlier version of the manuscript. To these and to all others that helped with this study we are very grateful. This work was partially supported by IDSM-OS/MCT, and by a grant from the Royal Society (London).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helder Lima Queiroz
    • 1
    Email author
  • Marcela B. Sobanski
    • 1
  • Anne E. Magurran
    • 2
  1. 1.Mamirauá Institute for Sustainable Development—IDSM-OS/MCTTeféBrazil
  2. 2.Scottish Oceans Institute, School of BiologyUniversity of St. AndrewsSt. AndrewsUK

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