© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Listen Up: Here's How Some Piranhas Bark Before They Bite

<p>A red-bellied piranha. You don't want to hear one.</p>
Joel Saget
/
AFP/Getty Images

A red-bellied piranha. You don't want to hear one.

We're not recommending you dive in to some South American stream to see if you can hear them do this, but this is just too interesting not to pass along.

National Geographic writes that:

"Piranhas, it turns out, can be excellent communicators, a new study suggests. But don't get the idea they're going soft — their barks, croaks, and clicks likely mean 'leave me alone,' 'I might bite you,' or 'now I'm really angry!' "

It has audio and video here.

Writing in The Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers Sandie Millot, Pierre Vandewalle and Eric Parmentier from the University of Liège, Belgium, say that their study of red-bellied piranhas showed that the fish "became quite vocal as soon as they entered into a confrontation."

And the team identified three sounds: A "bark" when the researchers reached into their tanks (yes, theydid have to visit a hospital and one of Millot's fingers was "nearly cut in half"); a "drumlike sound when fighting for food;" and "a softer 'croaking' sound produced by their jaws when they snap at each other." (National Geographic describes that last sound as more like teeth gnashing.)

The fish use "muscles attached to their swim bladders" to make the drumlike sounds, the Journal says.

According to Parmentier, two or three of the 25 piranha species are known to make such sounds.

We'll take him at his word.

(H/T Huff Post's Green blog.)

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott
Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.