THE SITUATION: You’re swimming in the Amazon, when somehow you get a cut. Suddenly, a school of piranhas start to swarm you. While they might not actually attack and de-bone humans for fun, they can still get agitated when they smell blood. Unfortunately, it’s now your blood, and you’re being attacked. It’s starting to hurt—their teeth are pretty sharp—and you want to get away.
WHAT DO YOU DO? You’re probably best served by following your instincts, which hopefully tell you to get the hell out of there.
“This answer is going to sound sarcastic, but it is not: get out of the water,” says Christopher Pomory, biology professor at the University of West Florida. “Hollywood movies have greatly overdone the danger. Piranhas can form into feeding frenzies on occasion, so some of the hype is real and it usually comes from blood in the water.”
Although the 3-D glasses definitely made Piranha 3-D seem like the realest thing ever—wait, you didn’t see it? No one saw it? Well, your loss, but anyway, the film was basically pure fantasy. Still, the fish can be dangerous, like all things that get hungry and have fangs.
“People in South America swim in water with them all the time without any trouble. If someone is injured and blood gets into the water, and if enough fish are around that respond, then there is a possible danger," says Pomory. "The only way out of it is to leave the water. At that point you are treating a flesh wound.”