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Pirambeba Dorada or Piranha Negra


 Serrasalmus spilopleura

KNER 1858











I have strong reservations about the fish in the photo. Even more on N. Hubert/M. Jegu identification of this particular fish photo. Pertaining to S. spilopleura,  I've read the historical documents  and seen all the drawing and most of the preserved specimens. I'm not in the position to say Jegu or Hubert is right or wrong. That's for others with science degrees to say. But if I were a betting man, I wouldn't bet that's the "real" Serrasalmus spilopleura. As Dr. William L. Fink has said to me numerous times, follow the science. So with that in mind, I'm doing just that. Until Jegu has published his paper on this particular species and I've been afforded an opportunity to read it. It is what it is.

My recommendation to hobbyists, researchers is to read the descriptions by Rudolf Kner 1858-1860. These original descriptions are the key to what we call Serrasalmus spilopleura. In the 1860 citation Kner provides drawings of not only S. spilopleura but also S. maculatus. Kner has reservations on S. maculatus being a new species or one better described. Messr. Jegu provided me his image of S. spilopleura several years ago. I had questions about it then, as I do now. In the last 2 months, Jegu and I  have been discussing this species via my Facebook OPEFE science forum. This is a closed restricted forum for scientists and a limited number of hobbyists that have special interests.In the case of S. maculatus, Jegu identified a fish that I had posted here as S. spilopleura which was caught in Bolivia. The fish had been identified by other scientists as spilopleura a couple or so years ago. Hobbyists call this fish the ruby red spilo. Messr. Jegu stated the fish was S. maculatus not S. spilopleura. Shortly after that, Jegu identified a photo I posted from Chris Howell as S. spilopleura. I disagreed with Messr Jegu. My comment was the fish was S. eigenmanni based on previous descriptions. Because Messr. Jegu is the lead scientist for this region, I accepted his identification with reservations as I stated above at the beginning. My warning to hobbyists and researchers is to be cautious on the above fish being S. spilopleura. In my opinion, it does not fit the original descriptions and drawings of Kner 1860.


This species was originally described from Rio Guapore, Bobota, Mato Grosso, Brazil (Kner 1858:166 [6] [Sitzungsber. Akad. Wiss. Wien v. 32 (no. 22)). However, Jegu 2001 places populations of S. spilopleura as widespread according to the distribution below. Because an error in misidentification was made between S. spilopleura and S. eigenmanni  in Jegu and colleague in 2001, spilopleura is found only in Bolivia according to Hubert et al. 2007, 2010. On the above left corner is the only photo I have of a correctly identified specimen (per M. Jegu) of S. spilopleura. Below is the living example (same as pictured above) in an aquarium. Video by Martin Reilly;



The maps shown below are approximate range of certain species. It does not show the complete range. No other species has given me so much reason to pause and consider as this one and S. maculatus. The problem centers on the description and rehabilitation of the species. 


This rehabilitation places the true S. spilopleura from the Guaporé Basin of Western Brazil (Bolivian side rio Itenez) only (see). The Central Amazon fishes are S. maculatus. To further add to this confusion, the fish from the Pantanal region have not been  rehabilitated but is being recognized as S. maculatus as well. So hobbyists are cautioned about using either name on the species from that region until more is learned.




Serrasalmus spilopleura Kner [R.] 1858:166 [6] [Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe v. 32 (no. 22); Rio Guaporé, Bobota, Mato Grosso, Brazil. Lectotype: NMW 57085. Paralectotypes: NMW 16344 (1, dry), 79457-59 (1, 1, 1, all dry). Appeared in more detail in Kner 1860:43 [p. 35 of separate], Pl. 5 (fig. 11). Lectotype designated by Jégu & Santos 2001:125. •Valid as Serrasalmus spilopleura Kner 1858 -- (Ortega & Vari 1986:9, Cestari & Galetti 1992, Gómez & Chebez 1996:51, Britski et al. 1999:66, Butí & Cancino 1999:71, Nakayama et al. 2000:149, Jégu & Santos 2001:119, Lasso et al. 2001:96, Jégu in Reis et al. 2003:192, López et al. 2003:32, Casciotta et al. 2003:116, Menni 2004:78). Current status: Valid as Serrasalmus spilopleura Kner 1858.



Map showing rio Itenez where S. spilopleura is found. It begins at the mouth of the Mamore.



MAXIMUM SIZE - According to (expect errors).


20.0 cm SL.




Guaporé River basin, Paraná River basin: Argentina and Brazil.








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UPDATED: 10/06/2012