Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 75–77 | Cite as

Scavenging on human corpses as a source for stories about man-eating piranhas

  • Ivan Sazima
  • Sérgio de Andrade Guimarães


Piranhas have a reputation for man-eating, notwithstanding the absence of authenticated records of persons attacked and killed by these fishes. Three cases of piranhas scavenging on human corpses were recorded in Mato Grosso, western Brazil. One corpse, found four days after drowning, was almost reduced to a skeleton. Another corpse was recovered in a few hours, also after drowning, without the soft parts of the head. The third corpse, recovered 20 h after the victim fell into the water due to a myocardial infarction, had flesh only on the trunk. Pygocentrus nattereri and, to a minor extent, Serrasalmus spilopleura were probably the necrophagous piranhas. Some of the human deaths attributed to piranhas most probably are cases of scavenging on drowned or otherwise already dead persons, by these opportunistic schooling carnivores.


Feeding habits Necrophagy Characiformes Pygocentrus nattereri Serrasalmus spilopleura 


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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan Sazima
    • 1
  • Sérgio de Andrade Guimarães
    • 2
  1. 1.Departmento de ZoologiaUniversidade Estadual de CampinasSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Hospital Geral de PoconéMato GrossoBrazil

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