New species of piranha discovered in Bolivia’s Amazon basin

Madrid – A team of biologists has discovered a new species of piranhathe Serrasalmus magallanesi, in it Madeira River (Bolivia)a discovery that demonstrates the importance of researching the ichthyofauna of the Amazon basin not only to better understand its rich biodiversity but also to conserve it.

As in many other regions of South America, the piranhas of the Madeira River are predators that feed mainly on fish, small invertebrates and even plant material such as fruits and seeds. They all belong to three genera: Serrasalmus, Pygocentrus and Pygopristis.

Recent reviews of material from ichthyological collections in Bolivia had revealed the presence of a new species of piranha of the genus Serrasalmus in the upper Madeira River system that had been mistakenly identified as Serrasalmus hollandi.

To confirm the existence of the new species, an international team of biologists led by the Universidad Mayor de San Simón (Cochabamba, Bolivia) with the participation of the Autonomous University of Madrid analyzed 159 individuals of the eight known species and the possible new species of Serrasalmus present in Bolivia.

The team performed 33 morphological measurements, 17 morphological counts (scale counts, fin rays and teeth) and analyzed ten coloration variables, as well as taking X-rays to observe the vertebrae, ribs and rays that support the fins and measuring some bones.

Original descriptions and works related to the 24 species of the Serrasalmus genus not reported in Bolivia were also reviewed to determine comparative diagnoses and genetic analysis studies were carried out.

The new species, Serrasalmus magallanesi, which was confirmed and described by the team of biologists, has a unique combination of characteristics: a silvery body in life, an anal fin with a striking crescent-shaped spot at the base, and a deep red anal fin with a dark stripe on the edge.

In addition, it can reach 20 cm in length and has an elongated snout and a diffuse or absent humeral spot.

Serrasalmus magallanesi is the ninth species of piranha discovered in the Andean country and the 32nd in South America.

The authors stress that a better understanding of Amazonian fauna will help to preserve species that are an important natural heritage for the planet.