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Caribe Cortador, Paña, Muda, Piranha Encarnada

Valid as Serrasalmus serrulatus

Valenciennes 1850

Etymology: LATIN: Serrasalmus = Serrated salmon; serrulatus = Little saw (or small teeth)








Copyright. Please do not use outside of OPEFE without permission.There seems to be some problems among scientists regarding this species validity and its placement as a Serrasalmus. Adding to this complex problem is lack of work by authors to correct the systemic and historical problems with this species. Even the locality is a questionable issue amounting to a huge problem for species placement. All that I can add is that S. serrulatus is found in Amazon river basin, Argentina, Brazil and Peru where many specimens are imported for the aquarium trade (they are often misidentified as S. eigenmanni ). S. eigenmanni was originally limited to Guyana and now appears more widespread than originally believed according to French ichthyologist M. Jégu.  Whether or not the species being discussed is valid or not, certainly those being imported for the trade resemble the group that includes S. hollandi, S. nalseni, S. humeralis and S. eigenmanni. It could also be possible a new species is present that has not been properly described by previous authors. Only time will tell.


There are some respected ichthyologists who think S. eigenmanni might be limited to Guyana. Which is the type locale. And all those Brazilian eigenmanni might be the undescribed species. Much more work needed. The relatively simplest way to separate serrulatus from all those eigenmanni is by observing the preanal serrae. Also, if the owner of fish can track it down to a Peru import then it can't be eigenmanni because it is not listed from that country, but serrulatus is. The S. serrulatus photos in the Schleser book (if you happen to own it) are good examples of Peruvian S.serrulatus.

One other thing, the humeral spot is not always present on serrulatus. That's been the major issue for century. S. eigenmanni also suffers from same physical issue.

According to Michael Goulding; Serrasalmus serrulatus are much rarer than either S. rhombeus or S. elongatus in the Rio Machado. He further stated that of the twelve of the twenty-four specimens caught and examined, they had masticated seeds, and in ten of them this was the dominant item. The only seed according to Goulding was identified was Burdachia prismatocrapa (Malpighiacease). Goulding says the piranhas remove the mesocarp/pericarp before crushing and ingesting the seed. It is the same behavior I observed and documented at OPEFE aquariums with Pygopristis denticulata.


From the Piranha Book, G. S. Myers. OPEFE Educational Use.

Serrasalmo serrulatus


The problem with serrulatus is a big one, dating back to Géry when he made S. scapularis a subspecies to S. serrulatus. This is covered in more detail below

The characters that separate S. serrulatus and S. eigenmanni are few in number, as is the coloration of the fish which is variable with juveniles to adults. Even the number and consistency of body markings is variable inside and out of its populations. I've done my best to isolate the collection points for this particular species.  It is not found elsewhere as of this date. To further complicate the historical problem of this species, it was described from Brazil, but S. eigenmanni was described from Guyana as a unique specimen, later revised by Fink & Machado-Allison (1996 et al.) confirming its presence in Venezuela. S. serrulatus and S. eigenmanni, according to Eschmeyer are found  in the same countries, except S. serrulatus is not in Guyana  according to the cited literatures.


Eschmeyer has questions on the fishes cited range by Jégu according to the databanks.


I will not be adding paper authored by Dr. M. K. Boeseman, A Preliminary List of Surinam Fishes Not Included in Eigenmann's Enumeration of 1912 (view). Tthe Catalog of Fishes, California Academy of Sciences does not list this publication in the references. OPEFE uses William Eschmeyer as the guideline and authority for references. S. nalseni (described from Venezuela) is also a species that also patterns the appearance of S. eigenmanni and S. serrulatus. Hobbyists should keep in mind,  Serrasalmus serrulatus needs a full revision because nominal names were applied to several forms in different countries.


The systemic of piranhas is constantly changing as more current research is being done. It further remains unknown when further systemic work will be accomplished other than DNA and parasitological. M. Jégu is present authority on Brazilian species and his work is not always complete or published. My correspondence with him has not produced any fruitful information on what the future holds regarding these species. It is indeed a messy species group.


Below information is based on available information research and my own opinion. Remarks by me is not to be construed as factual but based on research. S. serrulatus is an obscure species that could fit almost any Pristobrycon-like species.




Masticated seeds and fish parts.


Copyright. Do not use outside of OPEFE without permission.In the original discussion, Valenciennes (1849) does not mention a terminal band on the caudal fin, Castelnau (1855) affirmed there is a terminal border on the caudal fin and shows it on the plate image. However Géry (1964), based on the holotype specimen, does not present any color that indicates a terminal band. Due to the age and condition of the specimen,  Géry cannot conclude anything. See Jégu remarks under Historical Names.



The bottled specimen above is placed as Pristobrycon serrulatus according to the label. The specimens shown above are in the W. L. Fink laboratory at UMMZ. The specimen shows a faint dark "V" and does seem to present a colored pattern at the caudal edge though very faint. The only recent review was in 1988, Le Genre Serrasalmus dans le bas Tocantins (Brésil) et description de S. geryi. See references below.


Morphological and reproductive aspects of the piranha Serrasalmus serrulatus (Valenciennes, 1849) (Ostariophysi, Serrasalmidae) in the archipelago of Anavilhanas, lower Rio Negro, Brazil.

E. L. M. Leão

1985 - 220 pages

The pairs of morphometric characters traditionally used in taxonomy of Serrasalminae were considered in a study on biometrics of a sample of 253 specimens of Serrasalmus serrulatus Anavilhanas the archipelago, and its relation expressed by linear regression.


The existence of sexual dimorphism was tested by ANCOVA. The estimated values ​​for the mean lengths of sexual maturity of both sexes belong to the range in standard length qeu found that the base of the dorsal of males becomes greater than that of females. This allows us to assume that there was an adaptive significance to a larger base of the dorsal fin in males, when individuals reach adulthood.


We observed a small decrease of 1.5 lateral line scales and a small increase of 1.0 rows of scales that cover the anal, with the growth of individuals from 100 mm to 181 mm standard length. S. serrulatus has a maximum of six conical teeth in each ectopterigóide. The number of teeth ectopterigoideanos decreases as the fish grow in length. The total loss of teeth occurs between 110 mm and 166 mm standard length.


The data in our sample are compared with those available in the literature for the holotype of the species studied, 5 S. serrulatus Suriname and three other species - S. scapularis, s. and S. aureus gymnogenys - qeu have been linked to S. serrulatus a controversial problem of synonymy.


The only differences between the holotype of S. serrulatus and S. serrulatus Anavilhanas eye diameters were higher, the presence of peaks paired before the anus and a greater number of rows of scales on the anal, checked in our sample. The diameters of the eye specimens showed Anavilhanas is also higher than those of S. scapularis and S. gymnogenys. S. serrulatus and S. differed from S. aureus scapularis and S. gymnogenys because they have a higher base of the dorsal. The number of lateral line scales revealed differences between S. serrulatus (maximum of 81 scales), S. aureus (86), S. gymnogenys (95) and S. scapularis (81-95). The high number of branched rays of anal S. aureus (35) this species differed from the others, qeu showed a maximum of 33 rays.


When related to standard length, the distance pre-dorsal projection, body height, distance and the base of the dorsal fat fat revealed no differences between S. serrulatus, s. scapularis, S. and S. aureus gymnogenys. The relationship between inter-orbital distance and vertical length of the head and base of the anal  pattern and length, as well as the number of rays of dorsal fins, pectoral and pelvic and the number of pre-ventral serrae, also were not useful for discrimination between S. serrulatus, s. scapularis and S. gymnogenys.


Serrasalmus serrulatus, and S. aureus gymnogenys not differ in the relationship between the direct measurement of length of muzzle and length of the head. We establish the length-weight relationship for the species Anavilhanas, as well as the perimeter-length ratio, useful as an aid to the formulation of selectivity curves gillnets. The ontogenetic and seasonal variations of the staining pattern of the body are illustrated photographically. Characterizer seasonal variations are mainly due to the absence or presence of an orange color more or less pronounced in some regions of the body, acompnhadas a smaller or larger escuremento flank. We relate these changes to the environment in which the fish are, during the annual cycle of ebb and flow.


The ontogenetic variation related to the conspicuity of the humeral spot, conspicuity and size of the spots from the flank and extension of the caudal fin hyaline board. Data on the reproduction of the species were collected monthly from a total of 361 specimens collected from October 1981 to October 1982. The analysis of the proportionality between the sexes revealed a "fry-ratio 'monthly 1: a predominance of females and between 170 mm and 179 mm standard length. Estimated at 127 mm and 137 mm respectively, the average length of sexual maturity and average length of all males are potentially eligible for the reproductive process.


We estimate that females reach these stages, respectively, to 124 mm and 142 mm standard length. The frequency distribution of oocyte diameters of 26 females in maturation and revealed that the mature spawning species is split, with the release of at least three batches of oocytes during the reproductive period. We propose a scale of six stages of maturity, specific for S. serrulatus, based on macroscopic observation of ovaries. The distribution of monthly frequency of maturity stages of adult females, together with the variation of their gonadosomatic index monthly average, according to a spawning period of 6 months, corresponding to the time of rise of the river, and gonadal maturation is initiated in two th month previous to the peak of drought in Anavilhanas.




A similar species appears to be S. humeralis-gracilior and first mentioned by Eigenmann (1915) and S. hollandi (Reinhardt in Lutken, 1874). There is mention in Norman (1929) where he thought S. eigenmanni looked more closer like S. serrulatus. Norman synonymized S. aureus and S. gymnogenus (see also Boeseman, pdf) with S. eigenmanni. S. humeralis was synonymized by Norman under S. rhombeus. Interestingly, S. humeralis was also synonymized with S. marginatus (Valenciennes, 1847). Norman says in part about eigenmanni........


Upper part of body with round dark spots; an indistinct diffuse mark on the shoulder; basal part of caudal dark...further  regarding S. serrulatus... Upper part of body with round dark spots; basal part of caudal dark..  Both these species were compared with S. gymnogenus. Norman concurred that both the two specimens above were certainly identical with gymnogenus. The name S. humeralis-gracilior does not appear again until Géry revised the standing in 1977. He placed this species as a synonym of S. rhombeus.


Norman (1929) said the humeral spot was indistinct diffused in which case the lack of presence of these characters on these fish can be explained and probably attributed to the ecology they are found in. Stress may also be a factor. Norman mentions only one specimen (type of the species) in the original description.  The Norman (1929) citation have a drawing of S. serrulatus and S. usual for drawings of that period, they both look similar to each other except the S. eigenmanni 'V' type caudal fin is more prominent than S. serrulatus. Machado-Allison and Fink (1996) mentioned that S. eigenmanni has round spots later (during ontogeny) developing a combination round spots and some vertical long ones. Jégu in "Le genre Serrasalmus..." compared S. eigenmanni with S. humeralis...both species were quite close, but Jégu separated S. humeralis as a distinct species from S. eigenmanni based on other characters not found on S. eigenmanni.


I remain uncertain on this species, since I have very little information on it from other localities including lack of photographs, and of course the historical problems with the humeralis group as a whole. Further complicated by historical description problems that included many fish in this group on a limited range of examination. The only present review was Fink and Machado-Allison (1996) pertaining to the Venezuela species. But subsequent follow ups by Jégu has left  me very confused on species identification and its natural range that is beyond my understanding at this time. For the time being, S. eigenmanni, S. hollandi, S. humeralis, S. nalseni and S. serrulatus, may be species that will remain an enigma for me. With the influx of specimens at the hobbyist level and lack of actual locality data, will not make identifying this species any easier. Especially, those that might appear to be S. serrulatus, but may be S. eigenmanni instead.


Gill (1871) compared this species with Pygocentrus altus but did little to justify  P. altus description by stating only that it was "Nearly related to P. scapularis (Serrasalmo scapularis)..." the fish was mentioned probably because S. scapularis has 28 belly serrae. Fink (1993) examined 3 syntypes of S. scapularis and found the species serrae count are 28, 30, and 32. Géry (1972) placed P. scapularis as a subspecies to S. striolatus. Géry recognized only 12 species of piranha on the entire continent of South America! Nomenclature problems can be traced to Dr. Géry when he began assigning species as subspecies. In this situation by Dr. Géry placing S. serrulatus a poorly described species as a subspecies to a better described taxon.


The bionomen S. serrulatus has precedent over all the other published names since it was first (Valenciennes 1850), thus it is likely to stay and the latter be junior synonyms, if the fish is revisited by a competent authority. 



Géry 1972 placed S. scapularis as a synonym to S. serrulatus, but considered it a subspecies. Jégu had some reservations about that placement.


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Holotype image, Serrasalmus (Pygopristis) serrulatus





1. Castelnau S. serrulatus plate image.

2. Specimen unknown collection point. Listed as S. serrulatus.

3. Drawing of Pristobrycon serrulatus (Géry, 1963).

4. Specimen jar holding Pristobrycon serrulatus (UMMZ) photo by Frank Magallanes.

5. Détail sur le(s) spécimen(s) : Nombre de spécimen : 1 ;LS (mm) : 117 ;LT (mm) : 150 Conservateur : Alcool Observations : HOLOTYPE DE PYGOPRISTIS SERRULATUS VALENCIENNES,1849 IN C.V.,H.N.P., XXII : 300 / VOIR REV. HYDROBIOL. TROP.,21(3) : 239-274,tabl. II Détail sur l'origine : Origine : Bresil Milieu : Continent - Coordonnées : Bassin hydrologique : Amazone - Cours d'eau : Amazone Provenance de la collection : Détail sur le(s) collecteur(s) : Collecteur(s) : Castelnau ; Deville Date de prélèvement : 1847


Interesting aspect of the HOLOTYPE is the fish itself looks more like S. eigenmanni based on the serrae. See comments above by Leão.

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Preserved specimens of S. serrulatus

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Note the form of the serra pre-anal in a pattern of duel peaks.


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Collected by Raúl Yalán, Rio Nanay, Peru resembling S. serrulatus.


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Comparison  S. eigenmanni  v. S. serrulatus.


Image 1: My own research, I found little information concerning this species, it might not even be the right species. Closely resembles S. eigenmanni and P. striolatus.  Two (2) photos shown here may resemble S. serrulatus. As seen on the photo, the fish has an anal fin that has a margin not touching the edges., resembling a black line. This feature is also found on the caudle fin edge, similar to S. spilopleura and S. maculatus. However, another species that resembles this image and Image 2 below,  is Pristobrycon calmoni. However that species is in Brazil and Venezuela,  not Peru according to current field collections.


Image 2: The specimen possesses large ovals on the upper body in combination with vertical elongated spots,  quite similar to S. eigenmanni.  Body is very compressed laterally and discoid. Below the flank and the belly region is heavily with small round spots and bars. Serrae are well formed and large. A faint large humeral spot is apparent behind the gill. A black band transects the eye. A faint caudal band seems apparent in the preserved specimen, along with a dark "V" pattern of the basal region.  Adipose fin is large with a black margin bordering the edge. The eye (iris) is black and a black band transects the iris and orbit with is clear. Body is high and discoid, bright silver with a black humeral spot on the flank below the lateral line behind the gill. Cheek yellow-gold with red tinting. Anal fin is tinted a yellowing-orange. Pectoral fins are tinted orange. All other fins appear to be hyaline.



Amazon R. basin and (?) Essequibo R. basin: Amazon (?), Brazil, Guyana (?) and Peru; (not Argentina). 




19.0 cm SL (7.4 inches SL or approximately 9  inches TL)










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UPDATED: 03/07/2015