Piranhas Be Dammed: Feisty Fish Attack 100 in Brazil

September 27, 2011; 2:05 PM ET
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Photo posted to Flickr by the <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/naturalsciences/5958864340/in/set-72157627201003526/">North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences</a>

Piranhas took a bite of at least 100 swimmers at a beach in Brazil last weekend. The attacks happened at Calf Dam (Barragem do Bezerro), not far from big city Teresina in Brazil's Piauí state.

Authorities suspect that the fish have attacked humans because the piranha population has exploded at a rate much faster than fish lower on the food chain. Piranhas attack humans when they're under some kind of pressure, like hunger, especially if their population has increased too much.

AccuWeather Expert Meteorologist Jim Andrews said the unbalanced ecosystem could also be related to the dam.

"If a fish has a certain pattern of migration," Andrews said, "the dam throws up a barrier to that migration, unless there is a type of mitigation like fish ladders. You've effectively created a kind of habitat that didn't exist before. That could lead to surges in populations or crashes in population depending."

Instead of munching on human flesh, the piranhas can now eat tasty tilapia. Since the attacks, the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources released 100,000 fish in the dam.

Students restock Calf Dam with tilapia to balance the local ecosystem.


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