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The Piraiba (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum)

Today features a short post concerning one of the strangest looking groups of catfish—which is truly saying something since the entire order of catfish appears rather odd.  Brachyplatystoma is a genus of catfish from central South America which includes the largest catfish from that continent, Brachyplatystoma filamentosum, the so-called Goliath catfish or Piraiba, which is capable of reaching up to 3.6 metres (12 ft) in length and can weigh up to 200 kg (450 pounds).  The Piraiba is hunted for food and sport both with hooks and with harpoons.  All Brachyplatystoma catfish are swift sleek fish which live by hunting, but whereas the other species mostly hunt fish, the Piraiba has been known to eat primates.  Specimens have been found with monkeys in their digestive system and attacks on humans are darkly rumored (although ichthyologists scoff that the mighty fish only scavenges the remains of such terrestrial animals).

Brachyplatystoma capapretum (photo by Enrico Richter)

The other Brachyplatystoma catfish species are smaller than the giant Brachyplatystoma filamentosum, but they all have the elongated flattened nose which characterizes the genus.  One of these species, B. tigrinum, has especially lovely stripes.  Although an unusual fish, it is caught in sufficient quantities to be available in specialty stores for home aquariums, where its long nose, pretty stripes, and interesting behavior fetch a premium price.

Brachyplatystoma tigrinus (Zebra shovelnose catfish)

Brachyplatystoma tigrinus

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