Argentine Paleontologists Discover that a Piranha Ancestor Was a Meter Long

By Dialogo
July 20, 2009

Buenos Aires, July 17 (EFE).- Argentine paleontologists have discovered the remains of an ancestor of the piranha that lived eight million years ago and was a meter long, according to reports in the local press today. Without being identified, the remains of Megapiranha paranensis spent nearly a century in a museum in the city of La Plata (60 kilometers south of Buenos Aires). The discovery consists of a set of fossil teeth, just as terrifying as those of today’s piranhas, that scientists rescued from obscurity, and which they studied and identified as part of a fish that lived in the Paraná River. “This material was collected around a hundred years ago near the city of Paraná,” said Alberto Cione, from the Division of Vertebrate Paleontology of the Museum of La Plata, speaking to the daily La Nación, of Buenos Aires. Scholars believe that these fossil remains belong to the evolutionary “missing link” between pacu fish and today’s piranhas, both related species. “Pacu fish, which have a plant-based diet, have a dentition designed for crushing hard plants, with two rows of rounded teeth. Piranhas have a principally carnivorous diet, as a result of which their teeth are compressed triangles, serrated, and very sharp, in a single row,” Cione explained. In contrast, the inner teeth of the Paraná “megapiranha” “are inserted in between the outer teeth, in a kind of zig-zag pattern,” Cione indicated. “The megapiranha’s teeth are classified as intermediate between those of the pacu fish and those of the piranha, and not only regarding position: they are more compressed than those of the pacu fish and already have serrated cutting edges,” he specified.