Feeds

Piranhas actually scaredycats, boffins claim

'Safety in numbers' for Amazonian legend

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Visitors to the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition will be greeted with the rather disagreeable news that the feared piranha - legendary for hanging around in ferocious packs dedicated to reducing their prey to skeletal remains in seconds - actually congregate for fear of themselves ending up on the menu.

That's according to researchers from the University of St Andrews, the Mamirauá Institute in Amazonas, and the Zoological Society of London, who are probing the behaviour of the "often misunderstood" piscine deathmonger.

The exhibition blurb explains: "Fish usually form schools to gain protection from predators. However, rather than schooling for its 'safety in numbers' advantages, it was thought that red-bellied piranhas congregate in cooperative hunting groups."

Not so, says University of St Andrews professor Anne Magurran: "Piranhas have a fierce reputation, but through our research we are finding many of their behavioural choices are driven by their fear of being eaten. Piranhas face a number of predators and are influenced by the availability of food and cover.

"One interesting aspect of our research in Amazonia's flooded forests has been the seasonal differences in the piranhas' behaviour. During high water levels piranha can find food and protection easily. During the low water season, they are more at risk of attacks from predators such as dolphins and caiman.

"We are showing that piranha schooling behaviour is tuned to the seasonal cycle of predation risk and food availability. We are also examining the changes in an individual piranha's behaviour throughout its life-cycle, and the way in which these choices influence its chances of breeding and passing genes onto the next generation. Our investigation is giving us new insights into animal decision making in the wild."

This is sad news indeed for those of us who like our piranha completely misunderstood and stripping the flesh from their victims in a foaming water feeding frenzy. Now all we have to do to plunge with impunity into the Amazon is slip on a hungry-looking Flipper mask and the poor blighters will be swimming for their lives. ®

Bootnote

The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition runs until Thursday. Location and opening hours here.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
Boffins build CYBORG-MOTHRA but not for evil: For search & rescue
This tiny bio-bot will chew through your clothes then save your life
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.