GEORGE BERNARD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY GEORGE BERNARD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Nineteenth century engraving of the giant Arapaima fish, Arapaima gigas. Called "paiche" in Peru, and "pirarucu" in Brazil. This is one of the world's largest fresh water fishes, exceeded in size only by sturgeon and a few tropical catfishes. It is said to grow up to 4.5m long and reach 400kg in weight. Arapaima gigas is distributed in the Amazon river and tributaries. Intense fishing of the area has led to the disappearance of this species in the major Amazon currents, and thus its size has decreased considerably. They are still harpooned from canoes. It is a predator. It raises its own young. Arapaima meat is of commercial importance, dried, and the tongue used as a file.
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