a piranha fossil

Are Piranhas Extinct?

Recent movies have made Piranhas a fish of interest. With their trademark aggression and powerful bites, coupled with razor sharp teeth, it leaves many wondering if they exist at all.

So, are Piranhas extinct? No, not at all. Currently there are 30 to 60 species of Piranha that are indeginous to the Amazon basin. Modern Piranha have been on the planet for around 1.8 million years and survive in the rivers and lakes of Latin America. The most common is also said to be the most aggressive, the fearsome Red-Bellied Piranha.

What Is The Piranha Overview Then?

Having lived in Latin America for millions of years, Piranha are considered a medium sized fish, with powerful jaws coupled with interlocking, triangular razor sharp teeth.

Piranha Overview

Habitat: Rivers, Lakes, Reservoirs, Floodplains, Wetlands
Location: Amazon Basin
Lifespan: Up to 20 Years
Size: Up to 24 inches
Weight: 5 – 8 pounds
Color: Yellow, Silver-Grey, Red, Black (Depends On Species)
Diet: Omnivore – Fish, Fruits, Insects, Worms, Crustaceans, Seeds & Plants
Predators: Caimans, River Dolphin, Turtles, Herons.
Top Speed: 20 – 30 kph (15 – 25 mph)
No. of Species: Unknown. Estimated Between 30 – 60
Conservation Status: Least Concern or Not Evaluated


Depending upon the species they can grow to over 24 inches and weighs around 8 pounds. The famous Red-Bellied Piranha travel in schools but the black Piranha are solo travellers.

They are actually quite shy and timid fish, who do not attack live large animals in the water. They would more fear you as a potential predator, and bites are normally as a result of their nests being threatened.

They’re Actually Quite A Long Way From Being Extinct

While extinct is a common word in the English language, it is also used as a category by the  International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is the world renowned body that monitors species survival throughout the globe.

They have classed Piranha as either ‘not evaluated’ or ‘least concern’ depending upon the species. They are (in order of concern);


  • Least Concern
  • Near Threatened
  • Vulnerable
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild
  • Extinct


They have a further two categories, Data Deficient and Not Evaluated, which are pretty self explanatory.

There is currently no concern that the population of Piranha are decreasing.

What Piranhas Are Extinct?

In the 1900s, on the riverside in Argentina a fossilised jaw was discovered. It stayed unstudied until around 1980, having been kept in an Argentinian museum’s draws.

In 2009 it got named megaPiranha, and was thought to have gone extinct due to the rise of the Andes mountains. It lived 8 to 10 million years ago.

The megaPiranha is currently extinct, and is thought to have weighed around 10 kilograms and been 3 feet long.

It’s bite has been retroactively studied and is thought to have had one of the most powerful bites in history, according to a recent study.


So, Piranha are not only not extinct, but they seem to be flourishing. While they are confined to the Latin American Amazon basin, they seem to thrive there in the tropical waters with a rich abundance of food during the wet season.

The Piranhas natural predators are declining slightly so there is no reason to think they are in danger as a species. The appropriate authorities currently have no global data on the Piranha population but with up to 60 species, they only have a few that they classify as ‘least concern’. Most species are designated ‘not evaluated’.

There is every reason to think that Piranha will go another few million years into the future.


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