Wednesday, December 30, 2015

TR and the Myth of the Piranha

A few days ago we went to the Shedd Aquarium with my dad and step-mom as an after-Christmas treat. That would have been fun in itself, but everything's better when unexpected presidential trivia works its way in.

As we were admiring---if that's the word one would use---the piranha tank, a helpful Aquarium worker explained how piranhas aren't nearly as dangerous as we think, and how that erroneous perception is due largely to Teddy Roosevelt.

It all began during TR's trip to the Amazon. (Speaking of Amazon, make sure to shop there through my affiliate link! This post brought to you by shameless plugging!) Anyway, the locals wanted to make a big impression on the former president, so they dammed off a portion of the river and caught a bunch of piranhas to throw in. Then they starved the fish for several days.

Not eating for several days could make anyone cranky, and the piranhas were no exception. When Roosevelt got there, the locals pushed a live cow into the river, and rest is history...just like the cow was once the piranhas sunk their teeth into it.

The Aquarium person said that piranhas are omnivores, and as long as they're fed, they're pretty docile. My dad asked her what would happen if he jumped into the tank and she said they'd probably ignore him. We didn't test the theory.

So piranhas might not be as vicious as we've been taught, but it's more fun to think that they are, so I'm going to keep on believing that. Thanks, Teddy Roosevelt!

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