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Living pantries


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The mere mention of the word “piranha” conjures up images of savage cruelty, frenzy, and blood. It gives us the idea of a group of small fish that can devour, in a matter of minutes, a cow unfortunate enough to fall into the water.

One might believe that piranhas are extremely voracious animals, with no limits when it comes to eating and swallowing everything within their reach. However, this is not the case. If a piranha were to indulge in an unrestrained feast, gorging itself without limits when presented with an abundance of food, it would become sluggish, slow to react, and vulnerable to being caught by other predators, including other piranhas. The reason they quickly consume a considerably sized animal is due to the large number of piranhas inhabiting the same area, not because of what each individual piranha eats.

However, in the rivers where they live, the abundance of food is not a constant; on the contrary, food flows in waves. A day with a great abundance of fish can be followed by several days of famine, during which only the fittest piranhas can feed. The dilemma seems to be: If they eat a lot, they become exposed; if they eat little, they might not have enough reserves to survive the following day’s hunger.

These unique predators solve this problem in an ingenious and terrifying way. In the presence of an abundance of fish, a piranha will attack one fish at a time, devouring only its tail and fins, then moving on to another fish and repeating the process. The fish that fall victim to the attack, remaining alive for several days, are placed next to each other on the riverbed, defenseless and unable to escape or hide. The piranha stands guard, defending its “living pantry” from which it will take one specimen each day for sustenance. Just enough to survive without losing its agility, its ability to react, or eradicating its prey.

At this moment, in a temperate river, a piranha is attentively watching a group of finless fish, turned into a living reserve, awaiting their fate. It is not unnecessary cruelty or an abuse of strength; it is simply a piranha attempting to survive. Perhaps like us, perhaps different. Lacking intelligence but possessing what humans often call “common sense.”

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”