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WKU biologist featured in upcoming NatGeo episode on ‘Megapiranha’

Megapiranha, a National Geographic Explorer episode featuring WKU biology faculty member Steve Huskey, will now air on May 17. (The show had been scheduled for May 3 but NatGeo altered its schedule to air programs on terrorism after the death of Osama Bin Laden.)

Dr. Steve Huskey

The show will air at 9 p.m. (Central time) on National Geographic Channel.

Dr. Huskey, an associate professor in WKU’s Department of Biology, is a functional morphologist and studies the feeding mechanisms and feeding habits of fish.

Last fall he led a team of scientists that traveled to the Amazon Basin in Brazil to capture and study piranhas. As part of the NatGeo project, the team investigated a piranha mystery of immense proportions. A fossil of a giant jaw fragment has been identified as an ancient piranha, but with a twist: the teeth belonged to a fish seven times the size of existing piranha species.

Other researchers on the trip in August and September 2010 were Dr. Justin Grubich of American University in Cairo, Egypt; Dr. Guillermo Orti of George Washington University; and Dr. Jorge Porto of INPA in Manaus, Brazil.

“We collected piranhas and their close relatives, pacus, to record bites from live fish, as well as gather data about how their jaws function. In addition, I spent some time swimming in a tank with 150 hungry piranhas to record their feeding behaviors up close and personal,” Dr. Huskey said. “Our goal was to use the data from today’s species to predict what Megapiranha might have been capable of when it was swimming around the Amazon six to nine million years ago.”

Two previews of the NatGeo Explorer episode are available online:

The episode also is scheduled to air at midnight May 18, 6 p.m. May 21 and 5 p.m. May 24.

Contact: Steve Huskey, (270) 745-2062.

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