News species of vegetarian piranha discovered in the Amazon

amazon, news species of vegetarian piranha discovered in the amazon

The Myloplus sauron is named because its round body and distinctive orange and black markings closely resemble the infamous evil eye of author JRR Tolkien's fictional character.

A brand new species of vegetarian piranha has been discovered by scientists in the Amazon River.

Armed with notoriously sharp teeth, piranhas have built up a bloodthirsty reputation – with the fish being used by James Bond villain Blofeld to consume his enemies in You Only Live Twice.

However, some species of piranha prefer feasting on fallen fruits rather than flesh.

This is the case for the recently discovered Myloplus sauron – one of two new piranhas discovered by researchers.

With a distinctive black line running down its side, scientists were struck by the fish’s resemblance to a menacing and symbolic character from the Lord of the Rings franchise.

Dr Rupert Collins, the Natural History Museum’s senior curator of fishes, was one of the scientists who helped to describe the species.

He said: “As soon as one of my colleagues came up with the name for this fish, we knew it was perfect for it.

“Its pattern looks a lot like the Eye of Sauron, especially with the orange patches on its body.

“With so much undescribed biodiversity in the Amazon and surrounding rivers, its name is also a good reminder to keep an eye out for undescribed species in South America.”

Undescribed biodiversity

The piranha joins a long list of creatures named after the Eye of Sauron – including a dinosaur, a frog and a group of butterflies.

Yet while its name may be menacing, its nature is not.

And Dr Collins said the piranha’s renown for reducing animals to bones within seconds is undeserved

“The former US president Teddy Roosevelt is responsible for much of the piranhas’ reputation,” he said.

“He wrote about a cow being torn apart in front of him during a visit to South America, cementing their ferocious image in the public consciousness.”

Unravelling genetics in the fishees have also meant this latest species has been undiscovered for some time.

“They can also look very different at every stage of their life, with one species containing animals with many appearances.”

Until recently there was at least one species that researchers could confidently identify.

With a bold black band down its side, Myloplus schomburgkii could easily be picked out in rivers across South America.

But recent research suggested that this fish might not be all it seemed, and now this new study has revealed that it’s not one species, but three.

Collection and analysis of DNA samples confirmed this was the case – with both the Myloplus aylan and the Myloplus saurun being discovered together.

Experts believe the future for both fish seems good in the short-term.

While constructions of hydroelectric dams in the region have raised concerns, the widespread distribution of the fishes means their chances of survival are good.

#Yet not all South American fishes may be so lucky.

As many as 42 per cent of the continent’s fish species are thought to be unknown to science.

When they are identified, researchers can look to understand the threats they face in order to help them survive.

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