Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Piranhas are NOT Dangerous!

Well, not very. They have been known to attack humans and can give a swimmer a nasty bite, but the idea that they will come at you in droves and reduce you to a skeleton in ten minutes is a complete myth. There are thousands of other fish species that deserve a dangerous reputation more than the piranha

This film is currently in the cinemas: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464154/ . I've not seen it and have no intention to because it looks rubbish. It's actually the most recent in a whole series of remakes, varying in obscurity, of an original horror B-movie from 1978 by Joe Dante (Explorers, Universal Soldier etc).

The myth of Piranha's nature dates back to the 1940's when Theodore Roosevent mentions them in a speech. It was just a brief aside, an anecdote, however one of the people listening to the speech was an author called Willard Price. The idea of the Piranha being a horrific man-eater captured his imagination and he incorporated them into his 1949 book Amazon Adventure in which there's a scene where they attack an aligator and strip its entire body in minutes leaving only a pile of bones that the author compares to dinosaur fossils. Then more stories and TV shows followed on from Price's vision and in 1978 the first horror movie of the Piranha franchise was produced. The piranha myth had gone viral!

Piranhas are actually quite timid fish that school together only for protection and hunt in small groups. They rarely attack anything bigger than themselves and prefer carrion; in fact they're known as "aquatic vultures". I saw one in an aquarium once as a child and was awed by the sign on the side which said: "DO NOT PUT YOUR HAND IN THE WATER. I had this image that if I put my hand in only bones would come out! No, the truth is that it might just bite me; they have sharp teeth and powerful jaws, and this was the reason for the sign.

I wonder how many other concepts that everyone assumes is real are not. Ian R Crane talks about the "pseudo-myths"; notions that are generally thought of as true, yet not observed to be true. They are false, but are not labelled with the word "myth" and all it's negative connotations.

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