"I'm more worried about piranhas. Did you see that movie where they send a nuclear submarine to fight the piranhas, and one of them swims right down the periscope and bites the guy in the eye, and he goes, 'Aah! Aah! Aah!', and that old lady told him it would happen!?"It's generally agreed upon that sharks can turn most any situation from bad to worse... and then there's piranhas. Piranhas are portrayed as vicious mindless eating machines that can tear through anything and leave nothing but bones. In other words, thinking of nothing except whatever "food" happens to fall in the water. Piranhas provide an alternative to sharks for the Shark Pool, where the villain will always walk in with a bloody dripping leg of lamb or goat, dip it in the tank for two seconds, and then remove it to show a bare bone. In Real Life, the piranha's viciousness is exaggerated. When they're not hungry or are asleep, they flee from anything that disturbs them. Their famous schooling behavior is not done to attack prey, but to protect themselves from predators like caimans, giant river otters, and freshwater dolphins. Of course, when they do become hungry and are inclined to attack they actually can leave nothing but bones. While President Theodore Roosevelt did once observe Amazon piranhas reduce a cow to a skeleton in a few minutes, this occurred under artificial conditions. The locals had blocked off this portion of the tributary with nets, dumped hordes of extra piranhas in there, and starved them for days before throwing the cow in, all in the name of making a spectacle for the visiting president. Dropping the cow into a pit full of starving humans would have had a similar result, as anybody who's seen a zombie movie could tell you.
— Milhouse, The Simpsons
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- A commercial for Energizer batteries features the Energizer Bunny in a cage above a tank of pirahnas, the cage being triggered by a Lie Detector that an Energizer scientist was hooked up to. Whether or not the Bunny took a dive depended on the scientist telling the truth about whether or not Energizer outlasted Duracell in digital cameras.
- Dumb Ways to Die: "Use your private parts as piranha bait." Still not recommended in Real Life.
Anime and Manga
- In Dragon Ball, Ninja Murasaki ran across a pond to get away from Goku. Goku was about to swim across when Murasaki warned him there were piranha. Goku didn't know what piranha were, so Murasaki threw a large fish in the water to demonstrate. Understanding, Goku simply jumped over the water.
- Excel Saga: The title character was dropped at least once into a pit full of piranhas, among other things.
- In Gon, a swarm of piranha try to get an easy snack out of the titular baby t-rex. Too bad he's Made of Iron and an Implacable Man (dinosaur). Gon decides to make a meal out of them instead.
- Rando hangs Yusuke over a pond of piranha-like fishes in YuYu Hakusho.
- When the Smile Pretty Cure! girls travels around the world in episode 30, Akaoni turns a piranha into a Super Akanbe. It is also the last Super Akanbe in the series.
- The comic book explanation of Aquaman's hook hand. His real hand was eaten by pirahnas. Considering this is the guy who commands fish, that had to be retconned so that he didn't command, he just suggests.
- In one Punisher story, Frank is being chased through the New York zoo by Mooks. He used the surrounding wildlife to his advantage, such as holding one upside down in the piranha tank (and pulling out his picked-to-the-bone skeleton a short while later).
- Rivers of Palombia in Marsupilami are infested with piranhas. It's not so much a problem for the marsupilamis themselves, though, since they're fond of eating them.
- In the Tales From the Crypt story "The Bath", a servant fills a corrupt mine owner's bath with piranhas, with predictable results, as retribution for the owner killing the servant's family.
- New 52: In the Justice League storyline "The Hunt for the Cheetah", the Cheetah is defeated when Wonder Woman throws her off a cliff and into a river with Aquaman and a huge school of piranhas waiting to capture her.
- During the Robin Zero Hour! tie in when Tim suddenly found himself working alongside a fellow Robin, a time displaced young Dick Grayson, a jewel thief they were chasing tried to flee by faking having been killed and stripped to the bone by piranhas at the Gotham Aquarium. Tim knows something's not right and upon reading what kind of piranhas are in the tank realizes the body definitely isn't their thief since they're not flesh eaters.
Films — Animated
- All Dogs Go to Heaven: Carface threatens to lower Killer into a pit full of piranhas.
- Tarzan: Young Tantor mistakes a swimming Tarzan for a piranha, only to be told that piranhas don't live in Africa. This then completely derails the elephants' conversational topics: "There are no piranhas in Africa." "Don't tell the kid that! Of course there are piranhas in Africa!" "No, she's right, they're native to South America..." That said, it's probably for the best to avoid thinking too hard about how these African elephants even knew that piranhas or the Americas existed in the first place.
- Finding Nemo: "I'm a piranha! They're from the Amazon!"
Films — Live-Action
- Piranha was an intentionally-amusing rip-off of Jaws. The sequel is notable solely for the fact that it was more or less James Cameron's first feature film directing gig.
- In Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, the bad guy had a tank. Bruce Leroy shoves his face into the tank for half a second, long enough to scare him and his ditzy moll.
- You Only Live Twice: Blofeld kept a piranha pond in his underground lair — handy for getting rid of failed employees.
- Speed Racer: One of the bad guys has a tank full of them in his office in a moving truck. It gets a hole shot in it, and he forces one of his Mooks to stick a finger in to keep the tank from draining. The fish all gather around with fascination.
- The spoof movie Loaded Weapon 1 featured an aquarium with red-bellied piranha in a normal house. William Shatner's villain character views them with bemusement, sticks his head into the tank (with billowing water to simulate an attack), and then lifts his head up with a piranha in his grinning mouth, to the other characters' shock. Later a Funny Background Event occurs as a police officer has his arm in the tank trying to get something out of it during an investigation, with water billowing and him screaming in pain.
- In You Don't Mess with the Zohan, Zohan and his arch-nemesis Phantom are seen on the Lebanon beach competing about which one is the tougher, letting themselves get bitten by a piranha to prove their point. It's presence is a two-fold mistake, because a) piranhas are found in South America, and b) they are fresh water fish.
- Cannibal Holocaust was going to have a scene involving piranhas, but it was cut due to difficulties with the camera and the fish themselves.
- There is a small tank of piranhas (well, hand puppets) in the Lou Ferrigno Sinbad of the Seven Seas.
- Their reputation is used in Now You See Me, as Henley sets up an escape act where piranhas will be released into a water tank that she's locked in after 60 seconds. They appear to churn and devour her alive... only for her to appear in the crowd decrying the sadism of whoever thought of such an act. This is her Establishing Character Moment.
- In Killer Fish, loot from a diamond heist is placed in a dam lake with introduced piranha as its protector.
- A character in Bless the Beasts & Children makes a point by telling the story of a friend and his pet piranha, a vaguely charming beastie with a fondness for live goldfish. The friend was unable to keep the piranha, so he put it in a goldfish pond to spend the rest of its days feeding happily. The piranha got greedy, "turned into a goldfish gourmet," and lived entirely on the bellies of the goldfish (apparently the tastiest part.) Then the pond's owners noticed all the belly-less goldfish floating at the top of the pond, moved the survivors to another pond, and dumped in poison. Moral: if you start something (say, eating a goldfish), better finish the job!
- Averted in the Able Team novel Amazon Slaughter. The team is attacked by piranhas while swimming a river, but they only give some nasty bites (at the time, the protagonist is more worried because he thinks the pain means he's just been shot).
- In the James Bond novel You Only Live Twice, Doctor Shatterhand has piranha pools on his grounds, all the better to dispose of people who have not yet succumbed to the other lethal attractions of his gardens.
- In the Daughter of the Lioness books by Tamora Pierce, the Royally Screwed Up rulers of the Copper Isles sometimes throw dissidents into a specially-prepared pool of piranha and allow any survivors to go free. Unfortunately, they've figured out not to offer this opportunity when the ratio of dissidents to piranha is too high. Eventually, the fish die from being used to cover up murder by poisoning.
- In It, the eponymous monster at one point takes the form of a school of piranha... or maybe a character just imagined it. Since the character in question had never seen an actual piranha, they looked more like a child's imagined version of them than the real thing.
- Doc Savage: In Land of Long Juju, the Island of Long Juju sits in a river surrounded by tiny flesh-eating fish that can strip the flesh of a human in seconds. (The fish is never specifically said to be piranha, thereby averting Misplaced Wildlife, as piranha are not native to Africa).
- The Bad Guys has Mr. Piranha, known in his rap sheet as "The Butt Biter". He and his over 900 thousand brothers form a gang in the Amazon River, and are known for eating tourists. Despite this, Mr. Piranha himself ends up switching to the side of good in the end, proving the stereotype wrong.
- The children's book Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas features Brian the piranha, who just wants to eat fruit, and tries to get the others to enjoy it, too. Unfortunately for him, they'd rather stick to eating people, and are honestly just annoyed with his offers.
- In Fortunately, the Milk, hungry piranhas are one of the many obstacles the protagonist claims to have faced on his trip down to the corner store to get a carton of milk.
- One of the episodes of the TV show Cliffhanger had the Plucky Girl reporter dangling six inches over the Amazon river, which was teeming with piranha.
- In The Most Extreme, it was the misconception of the piranha that gave it second place in the "Monster Myths" category.
- Extreme fisherman Jeremy Wade in an episode of River Monsters doubted this until he dipped a dead duck in a piranha infested river for a few moments. When he pulled it out, the submerged part had been devoured all the way to the internal organs.
- Except that's not really demonstrating the principle of the trope — piranha are by nature opportunistic feeders, so of course they'll go after a carcass. Later in the episode he jumped into a pool that had been filled with piranha and spent several minutes up to his chest in the water, when he exited it unharmed. In the River Monsters: Unhooked commentary, he said that shooting that scene was one of the least pleasant things he'd ever done on the show and had wanted to get out of the water much sooner, but the director wouldn't let him.
- A later season episode once again ended up investigating the possibility of piranhas attacking humans, this time in Bolivia with at least one reported fatality. In this case, however, it was because another fish, the arapaima, had been introduced to the river and the presence of a large, non-native predator had thrown the river's ecology out of balance and left the piranhas much more aggressive than usual due to lack of food.
- Jeremy's biggest problem with piranha is that, when searching for other fish in South America, he'll always end up catching piranha or have them steal his bait.
- As noted under Real Life, below, piranhas often learn to associate anything splashing down in the village "garbage dump" as food. At the end of the episode dealing with the disaster of the Sobral Santos, Jeremy comes to the conclusion that the hundreds who died did so because the constant dump of waste from the fish processing plant had caused every predator in the river, from piranha to bull sharks, to associate that spot with an endless supply of food. And that was exactly where the ship sank.
- Referenced in Penn & Teller Tell A Lie and debunked with Teller going for a swim in a tank containing thirty of the little fish — who are less hungry, and more terrified of "big fish" Teller.
- One of the Ways on 1000 Ways to Die combines piranha with candiru (the fish that The Monarch was referencing in The Venture Brothers entry below) for a rather gruesome death — especially if you're male.
- On Boy Meets World when Cory and Topanga are honeymooning at a tropical resort this is used as a background gag heard over the P.A. system: "Attention guests, will the couple who left their dog in the piranha tank please come claim his collar?".
- During a Cousteau special concentrating on the Amazon River, at one point a pair of divers filmed underwater one handfeeding a chicken leg to piranha. As they joked afterwards, the piranha did not bite the hand that fed them, but the one that filmed them with the cameraman getting a single bite on his knuckle that didn't require any real medical attention.
- In the Doctor Who episode The Face of Evil, the Test of the Horda is a land-dwelling version.
- Survivor: In the Amazon season, a simple fishing excursion resulted in a nice lovely little bite at the men's camp.
- CSI: In "Table Stakes", the killer disposes of a body by feeding it to piranhas.
- QI: In the "Killers" episode of the 'K' season, Stephen discusses the Pacu fish. From Papua New Guinea and a relative to the piranha, it eats seeds and nuts. It also goes for a different kind of nut, hence its nick name of the "Ball-cutter fish", which goes for the gonads if you are swimming naked near it. There are two recorded deaths by castration from this fish.
- One of the pets of The Addams Family is a piranha, the Addams' equivalent of a gold fish.
- The Far Side:
- As always, the standard unit of hungriness in piranhas is stated to be one cow: "They can devour an entire cow in ten minutes". Of course, the strip has a cow note this fact.
- Another Far Side comic shows the interior of a pet store. The focus of the comic is a cat with wooden pegs for its forelegs, and a piranha swimming in a fishbowl nearby.
Prehistory of The Far Side: I thought for a long time about what caption to put on this one, then realized it didn't need a caption at all.
- A third has some (human) explorers wading across a tropical river, while down below a piranha is saying to the rest of his swarm "OK, just nibble at first, but once they yell 'Piranha', let 'em have it!"
- Another strip has a school of piranha exiting the water in a miniature bus, heading towards a camp where people are sleeping. The caption is "When piranhas dine out".
- On Disneyland's Jungle Cruise ride, one stretch of the river is infested with animatronic piranha that leap out of the water toward the boat.
- A Deviantart pice titled Lucky the Cat features the ghosts of the nine lives of the titular, ironically named feline, all showing how that particular life ended. Death number four shows Lucky with numerous piranha biting onto his paws and tail.
- Merely entering piranha-infested water in Tomb Raider III triggers a swarm that eats up your health bar in seconds.
- Carvanha from the Hoenn games. Notably, the Pokedex does say that Carvanha are timid as individuals. Unsurprisingly, it evolves into Sharpedo.
- Pokémon Black and White has Basculin, based in equal parts on piranha and sea bass. They come in two forms — red-striped and blue-striped — and are noted for their hostility, especially towards Basculin of a different color than themselves.
- In Rayman 2, about half of all the water in the game is infested with these.
- Lockjaw and Snapjaw from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest, Nibbla from Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble!
- Banjo-Kazooie has Bubblegloop Swamp, the water of which is infested with piranhas that take your health away anytime you entered the water. The only way to safely traverse the water was to wear wading boots, or have Mumbo Jumbo turn you into an alligator (because piranhas are afraid of alligators). There's even a piranha-like enemy found in various areas of the game called Chump.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker we have the nightmarish Seahats, which are boat sized piranhas with propeller blades on their heads that will pursue Link to the ends of the earth in order to knock him out of his boat.
- Skullfish in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess resemble piranhas and swarm around Link if he enters their waters, especially in the deep pool right smack-dab in the middle of the Lakebed Temple.
- The 2005 Punisher video game features piranha tanks that you can use to threaten enemies into giving you info by holding them just a few inches from the water's surface. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from dunking your victims — Frank sticks the enemy's head in for a few seconds and pulls it out, revealing that most of the guy's face has been eaten off.
- Piranhas appear in jungle areas of Spelunky. They chase any unfortunate spelunker who jumps into a body of water, but they can kill other enemies as well. And there are also large piranhas!
- One of the types of Mook in Let's Go Jungle!. Very irritating, because they're hard to hit and attack in swarms, and if even one gets to you before you can kill it, you lose up to about a third of your lifebar!
- In Spyro: Year of the Dragon, the Midday Gardens world has a level called Spooky Swamp. The water there is full of piranhas! And they will kill you if you so much as land in it, let alone try to swim, unless you get. The hell. Out of there. At least there are warning signs.
- Fatty Glutton from the Darius series, a Humongous Mecha piranha. His name may sound laughable, but don't be fooled- he's usually one of the hardest bosses of the games he appears in.
- The second Endless Ocean game (Blue World in the US) has them in the Amazon area. You can distract them with food, but they won't react to the pulsar. If you do agitate them, they'll bite you and make your air meter drain faster. It is apparently possible to steer clear if you're careful.
- In Guild Wars 2 there is an underwater spell that summons piranhas to deal damage over time. There is also a specific underwater level where you have to use bioluminescent plants to get from volcanic vent to volcanic vent because as soon as you leave the safety of a light radius you get eaten by super death killer piranhas and die in a couple of seconds.
- Strider sees them in the Amazon level: they infest the Amazon River but are actually harmless, simply clinging to Hiryu's sprite if he walks close by. If Hiryu falls into the water, however, the (still harmless) piranhas will rush him en-masse as he slowly sinks into the bottom of the screen.
- Averted in Bubble Trouble, where Chombert the Piranha is The Goomba of the game.
- House of the Dead 2 has the Mofish, which resembles a mutant piranha. These foes are found in water and leap at the players to take bites out of them. They are also seen during the fight with the Hierophant.
- Super Mario Fusion Revival: Deep in the Amazon River basin (World 2-S4: Rebel River), Marco Rossi found a contingent of Rebel Army forces. However, the only clear way to it is to first traverse a stretch of the Amazon infested with piranha. There is a giant piranha fish nearby with a taste for flesh; contact with it will prove fatal!
- Failing a specific timing puzzle in Leisure Suit Larry 2 results in Larry falling into waist-deep water. He notes that there's a weird tingling sensation, then climbs out of the river to find that piranhas have stripped everything below his waist to the bone. Notably, the game ends not because he dies, but because he lost his manhood and can't go on.
- You can catch piranha in the Animal Crossing games; the Player Character lampshades this trope when they do ("Which river is this, anyway?"). And after you've donated one to the museum, you can see it bashing itself against the wall of the tank... but the description for it claims, correctly, that piranha are actually quite timid.
- In ADOM there is a certain location where you need to pass through a pool of piranhas-on-crack that will probably kill you in two or three moves if you try to swim across. Fortunately the game provides you with ways to build a bridge if you know where to look.
- Sheep Dogn Wolf has piranhas that swallow the player in one gulp.
- Jaws Unleashed has piranha schools in the second level, set in a flooded Sea World-like amusement park/research complex. The little bastards can drain Jaws' health incredibly fast if he doesn't keep swimming. How the tiny fish can get through the shark's hide and why they're not terrified of the thirty-five-foot great white is a mystery.
- One of the "Moopie" stamps in Kid Pix Studio was a piranha that would leap out of the water, snapping its teeth.
- Metal Slug 3 has the Flying Killer enemies, piranha-like fish infesting the jungle water that would strip your character to the bone if they fell in. Like their name suggests, they also can jump out of the water and fly straight at the player!
- Averted in The Amazon Trail; piranha are only encountered in the fishing minigame, and will never harm your character or your guide even if you capsize the boat.
- At one point in New Dangan Ronpav 3, Angie and Himiko put on a magic show in which the latter has to escape from an aquarium filled with piranhas. Himiko manages to escape unharmed, but Ryoma's corpse, which was hidden inside the piranha tank above the aquarium, gets reduced to a freaking skeleton.
- In Final Fantasy VI, Piranhas (or Opinicus Fish in later revisions) are the main foes that Sabin and Cyan fight when they take a dive down Baren Falls to escape The Empire. A purplish piranha called R(h)izopas serves as the boss battle after a few waves of Piranhas are defeated, and it uses powerful elemental attacks.
- Sonic 3 & Knuckles featured robot piranhas in the Hydropolis zone. Rather than damaging Sonic normally, they latch onto him and start draining his rings until you can shake them off (or if playing in Sonic and Tails mode, Tails destroys them).
- In Bowser's Kingdom episode 8, Steve the Piranha Plant had a girlfriend and laid an egg. Hal asked how he did that, to which Steve replies it's because he was drunk and in love. The egg hatched and it revealed a Dino Piranha, which chased Jeff and Hal.
- Subverted in The Non-Adventures of Wonderella. Hitlerella has a piranha tank, and throws Wonderella into it, but Wonderella's inedible, so instead they make small talk.
- DSBT InsaniT: Biting Blue Fish are vicious, hungry, and always attack in a swarm.
- Brandy & Mr. Whiskers: Mr. Whiskers is always being attacked by piranhas anytime he gets near the water.
- The Fairly Oddparents: Timmy once placed a hungry piranha in the fishbowl with Wanda and Cosmo to get them back for giving his emotions back just before he had to endure a daredevil stunt to save his friends (which involved diving into a pool of piranhas). When he accepted the job, he had given up all emotions, and thus was unfazed by the idea. Cosmo, slow on the uptake, didn't realize the situation and tossed all of his emotions back just before the fateful jump. What's more, Cosmo forgot to give Timmy back his common sense to wish his friends free instead of jumping.
- Kim Possible:
- One episode of Scooby-Doo had the gang in the Amazon, and at one point Scoob and Shaggy had to build a canoe made of wood to cross the river. Piranhas start to eat through the canoe, causing Shaggy and Scooby to literally run on water to get away from them.
- Street Sharks gave us Dr. Piranoid, but it subverted Everything's Even Worse with Sharks.
- Generator Rex encountered piranha in episode 9, mutated into an Extreme Omnivore Flying Seafood Special variety by the series' Phlebotinum.
- The Venture Bros. references and dismisses them:
The Monarch: I don't think I'm the one in danger here... considering the sad fact that right below you flows the MIGHTY AMAZON — teeming with the most GRUESOME fish to ever...Hank Venture: [interrupting] The piranha!The Monarch: No.Hank Venture: The shark?The Monarch: No!Hank Venture: ...The piranha!The Monarch: NO! And shut up! This isn't a quiz.
- The Simpsons:
- In the Treehouse of Horror segment "Terror In Tiny Toon", Itchy shoots a swarm of piranha from a hose reducing everything below Bart's head to the bones. This is later fixed by playing the segment backwards backwards.
- Another Treehouse of Horror segment, ""In the Na'vi", had flying aliens which drop eggs onto some soldiers. Said eggs hatch into a school of piranha.
- Looney Tunes: Sylvester has been attacked by piranha in a couple of shorts.
- Blue Aardvark was attacked by piranha in Pink Panther And Pals while trying to escape a hungry cheetah... a sort of Scylla and Charybdis situation.
- In Cro, the human characters get chased around by an aggressive school of piranha for almost the entire episode until Phil the mammoth notes that piranha, who are swimming in a salt water aquarium, are fresh water fish. Hearing this, the piranha immediately die.
- In the Marsupilami short Bathtime for Maurice, Marsupilami met the piranha and remarks "Well, What do you know? Playful Piranhas. Hello, Fellas." Before they started attacking Marsupilami.
- Timon & Pumbaa had the main duo get chased by a giant piranha. With a chainsaw!
- In the HBO Animated Adaptation of Spawn, to give Jason Wynn a Kick the Dog moment, we see him feed a live puppy to a tankful of piranha in one episode.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- In "Daring Don't", the villain Ahuizotl tries to off Daring Do by means of a death trap featuring a pool full of piranhas.
- In "Non-Compete Clause", a school of biteacudas — fish with bat wings that are visually reminiscent of piranhas, being stout-bodied, river-dwelling carnivorous fish — serves the piranaha's typical narrative role by menacing Rainbow Dash and Applejack when they're dangling over a river infested with them, jumping out of the water and trying to take bites out of the two. As is typical for fictional piranhas, they're depicted as highly aggressive, voraciously carnivorous bundles of sharp teeth and bad attitudes waiting to devour anyone and anything that falls in the water with them.
- In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Mad Love", the Joker came up with a plan to drop Batman into a piranha tank, but gave up on it because he couldn't make the fish smile (thus making the scheme unfunny and thus unworthy of him). Harley figured out how to fix the problem by lowering Batman into the tank upside down so their frowns would look like smiles, but instead of impressing the Joker she enraged him by stealing his victory. And she explained the joke.
- The Secret Saturdays: Subverted in the pilot episode, when the family is traversing through the amazon river, a piranha bites Komodo's tail. Komodo then proceeds to eat the unlucky fish.
- Inverted in the one documented case of a piranha killing a human being, as the fisherman in question had already removed the fish from the water when it happened. Loaded down with a double armload of fish, he opted to grip one in his mouth rather than make two trips to carry his catch home; unfortunately, it turned out to be a red-bellied piranha that wasn't quite dead, and bit off such a large hunk of the man's tongue that he bled to death.
- Many villages along rivers with piranha have a designated 'garbage dump' spot in the river, and the piranha will greedily devour anything dumped into the water there, as they've been taught it will be food. It's often fairly safe to swim in the river — unless you try to jump in at the garbage dump.
- Piranha are also a treat for many predators: botos (Amazon river dolphins), giant river otters, caimans, arowanas, viperfish, and many fishing birds eat them like popcorn. It's funny how the most dreaded predator of the Amazon River is sitting near the bottom of the food chain.
- What's worse than a swarm of normal piranhas? How about a school of giant piranhas! Meet Megapiranha, a meter long fish that lived 10 million years ago in the interior sea that is now the Amazon River. However, it's only known from a few teeth that seem to have characteristics of both the famous carnivorous ones and the herbivorous pacu (a piranha relative). The scary part is that 40-foot caimans and 12-foot turtles living in the same habitat show that the Megapiranha was just a tiddler in the ancient Amazon.