60 or more people injured in a rare Piranha attack in Argentina

The unthinkable happened for many residents of Rosario, Argentina as they swam in the Parana River on Christmas Day. They were attacked by Piranha while swimming, something a lot of people have nightmares about. Unfortunately for them, it was real life. The Police were forced to temporarily close the beach during the ordeal.

piranha-teeth

Here you can see the typical teeth a Piranha is equipped with, this is unlikely to be the exact species but the teeth are similar.

It was unusually hot as the region has been bombarded by a heat wave with temperatures rising to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit prompting many residents to seek relief in the cool waters of the Parana River. As they swam an aggressive school of Piranha attacked many of them, leaving 60 or more people with injuries. Some sources are saying more than 70 people, but either way many were injured including around 20 children. One paramedic from the scene was quoted as saying “some children had lost entire fingers and toes in the fish attack.”

From the AP

Director of lifeguards Federico Cornier said Thursday that thousands of bathers were cooling off from 100-degree temperatures in the Parana River in Rosario on Wednesday when bathers suddenly began complaining of bite marks on their hands and feet. He blamed the attack on palometas, “a type of piranha, big, voracious and with sharp teeth that can really bite.”

The attack is being blamed on a piranha species called palometas (Pygocentrus palometa), it is the most serious of its kind in the city since 2008 when 40 swimmers were hurt in a similar attack. It is unsure why the fish chose this day but I am certain this is a Christmas day all of the victims will never forget. As far as I can find out none of the injuries were life threatening so all victims should end up surviving the ordeal aside from probably being terrified to swim in rivers ever again. 

Pygocentrus-palometa
A sign showing the “Palometa” name, it appears very similar to the standard Red Bellied Piranha. I am willing to bet Jeremy Wade of River Monsters will investigate this attack in the coming years, as these type of events are very rare.
Here is some information I found regarding this exact species of Piranha the attack is being blamed on. (Credit – http://home.telfort.nl/lucienbal/species/palometa.html)

Pygocentrus palometa

Cuvier and Valenciennes, 1850

Historical names:
Pygocentrus palometa
Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome vingt-deuxieme. Suite du livre vingt-deuxieme. Suite de la famille des Salmonoides. Table generale de l’Histoire Naturelle des Poissons (pp. 1-91). Histoire naturelle des poissons. v. 22: i-xx + 1 p. + 1-532 + 1-91, Pls. 634-650. No types known.

Locality:
Rio Apure, Rio Guerico, Lower Rio Orinoco, Venezuela.

Remark:
No types known, listed valid as Pygocentrus palometa Valenciennes 1850 but a nomen dubium

Translation of original description (not to be taken accurate):
Palometa from Rio Apure
a wide and laterally compressed body; arched dorsal profile; the mouth is extremely small; the eyes are very large; the dorsal profile disk-shaped as oppsed to the ventral; the pectoral and pelvic fins are very small; forked tail; belly with sharp serration. Posterior of the serration, extending up to 2/3 of the body, begins a long anal fin. Teeth are very sharp in both jaws. Small, silvery scales; No humeral spot.

Credit and references:

  • Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome vingt-deuxieme. Suite du livre vingt-deuxieme. Suite de la famille des Salmonoides. Table generale de l’Histoire Naturelle des Poissons (pp. 1-91). Histoire naturelle des poissons. v. 22: i-xx + 1 p. + 1-532 + 1-91, Pls. 634-650. – Cuvier, G. and A. Valenciennes 1850
  • Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. CLOFFSCA. Check list of the freshwater fishes of South and Central America. CLOFFSCA. 2003: i-xi + 1-729. – Reis, R. E. , S. O. Kullander, and C. J. Ferraris, Jr. 2003
  • CAS

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