International expert responds to piranha attack - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

International expert responds to piranha attack

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By: Hannah Paczkowski

It's like a scene out of Hollywood, piranhas attacking humans.

It happened Christmas Day in the Piranha River in Argentina. Nearly 70 swimmers injured including a little girl who lost her finger, but experts said it's not as common as you think.

"They're mostly known as scavengers, they wouldn't typically attack," Guillermo Orti said.

Orti is a molecular biologist from George Washington University. He is a former UNL professor and native of Argentina.

He said there haven't been many, if any, documented cases of piranhas attacking humans, until Christmas Day.

One theory, is the piranhas confused toes and fingers as worms or small fish.

"You can imagine a little finger dangling in the water there, it would like a little bait that you're dangling to a fish. It's not like 'Oo, we're going to attack this creature'," Orti said.

Another theory is the heat. Temperatures in Rosario, Argentina have soared above 100 degrees recently.

"They become hungry, the water is shallow, so it heats up, and that's when they're known to be aggressive," Orti said.

A piranha's bite can be as strong as a great white shark, but Orti said it's unlikely an attack like this will happen again on a larger scale.

"They have the tool kit to do it, but they don't," he said.

 There were no deaths in this incident. In fact, the same beach was full of swimmers the very next day.


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