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Role in Piranha 3D
The piranhas are first shown in the start of the movie where a tremor broke into Lake Victoria, splitting the lake floor, causing a whirlpool. Matthew Boyd, a fisherman who was fishing in the lake saw this and ends up getting caught in the whirlpool and is eaten by the piranhas. After their escape, they start to devouring anything that crosses their path. After seeing Boyd's mutilated body, Sheriff Julie Forester takes a team of seismologist divers Novak, Sam and Paula to the fissure. Novak speculates that the rift leads to a buried underground lake. Paula and Sam dive scuba into the bottom and discover a large cavern filled with large piranha egg stocks. Both are killed by being eaten by the piranhas before they can warn them. Julie and Novak found Paula's corpse and caught a lone piranha and brought it to Mr. Carl Goodman, a marine biologist who is working as a pet shop owner. After seeing the specimen, he recognises it to be a prehistoric piranha and explains that they have been trapped underground for two million years where they have become super aggressive.
The piranhas later found a feeding frenzy within the 2,000 partying college students who were having a vacation in Lake Victoria. Julie, Novak, along with Deputies Fallon and Roberts, tried to warn the students, but they ignored them until the piranhas attacked them. Novak boards a jet-ski with a shotgun to help while Fallon drags people to the shore and Julie and Roberts try to get the swimmers into the police boat. A floating stage capsizes from the panicking guests, pulling an electric wire which mutilates a few tourists. Almost everyone in the lake is either wounded or killed by the piranhas or by panicking guests who were recklessly driving their speed boats and accidentally caused the deaths of others.
Meanwhile, Jake, Julie's son, spots his younger siblings Laura and Zane stranded into an island and forces Derrick to rescue them. Derrick accidentally crashes his boat, the Barracuda, into some rocks, flooding the rooms below decks. Kelly is trapped in the kitchen while Derrick, Crystal and Drew fall overboard from the impact of the collision. The piranhas attack them and devours both Crystal and Derrick. Danni manages to get Derrick's partially eaten body back into the board.
Deputy Fallon makes his last stand by taking a boat motor and used its propeller to shred and kill many piranhas, who in turn, ate his legs. Julie receives a call from Jake pleading for help. Julie and Novak stole a speedboat and heads off towards the kids. Julie and Novak reach Jake and attach a rope into his boat. Julie, Danni, Laura and Zane started crossing the rope but the piranhas got Danni by the hair and fell off devouring her, while the others make it to safety but the rope came loose. Jake goes back to save Kelly by using Derrick's corpse as a distraction and ties a rope to himself. He ties Kelly with him and lights a flare after releasing the gas in a pair of stored propane tanks. Novak starts the boat and speeds away just as the piranhas surround Kelly and Jake. They are dragged to safety and the propane tank explode, destroying the boat and killing most of the piranhas.
Mr. Goodman calles Julie on the radio and Julie tells him that they have killed the majority of the piranhas. Terrified, Mr. Goodman tells them that the piranha specimen they give to him is not fully mature, which means that the fish they were fighting were only babies. As Novak wanders were the parents are, an adult piranha leaps out of the water and she eats him.
Role in Piranha 3DD
The piranhas returned in the sequel Piranha 3DD as the main antagonists once again. They still appear as babies instead of full human-sized adults.
A year after the attack on Lake Victoria, an eradication campaign has left the lake uninhabitable for life, and the town itself has been largely abandoned as a result of drying up the lake. Due to the loss of habitat and food source, the piranhas move out to Cross Lake via underground tunnels and sewage pipes, where they manage to find food. In the start of the movie, two farmers are seen looking for their prized cow, only to find it dead. Piranha eggs have been laid into the cow's corpse, and the farmers are killed by the swarm, which even includes the piranha fry.
Shelby and her boyfriend Josh go skinny dipping into the lake, wherein small piranha fry bites her and some secretly swam right into her vagina, wherein she mistakes Josh for doing a painful molestation, which later make her sick on the next day. Ashley and her boyfriend Travis make love inside their van but accidentally trip the handbrake, causing the van to roll into the lake, where they are devoured.
The next day, Maddy, the movie's main protagonist, is consoling a sick Shelby about their missing friends. While sitting on a jetty, they are both attack by a swarm of piranhas and manage to escape them. They kill one and easily recognize it to be the one from the Lake Victoria incident. Along with Kyle and Barry, they pay a visit to Mr. Goodman, who later told them that the piranhas must have found a way through the pipes and underground tunnels. The trio returned to the lake, where they established that the piranhas cannot make their way into the outflow pipes connecting to the lake and waterpark. Unknown to Maddy, her stepfather and co-owner Chet, is secretly pumping water from an underground river into the waterpark.
While Shelby and Josh starts to have sex, a grown piranha crawl's out of Shelby's vagina and bites Josh's penis, forcing him to cut the organ with a knife. Later, when Maddy and Barry visited her, another grown piranha bites its way out of Shelby's stomach. She and Josh are both hospitalized.
Maddy soon discovers Chet's plan and attempts to stop it but was stopped by her stepfather and Kyle, who was secretly working for him. The piranhas make their way into the waterpark, where they start attacking and killing all the lifeguards and waterpark-goers. Deputy Fallon and Drew Cunningham, two survivors of the Lake Victoria incident, who went to the park to overcome their fear of water, witness this and Fallon shows his prosthetic leg, a shotgun, and starts helping the visitors and shooting the piranhas. David Hasselhoff, the park's celebrity lifeguard, saves a kid named David (who was one of the people attacked by a small swarm of piranha fry before the massacre), and becomes pleased that he has become a real lifeguard.
Barry begins to drain the pools to drag the piranhas back; however Maddy, who is rescuing people from the water, gets caught into the suction and dragged down into the bottom of the pool. After Kyle refuses to save her (which later made him insane), Barry, despite being unable to swim, leaps down and brings her to the surface where they kiss.
Big Dave, a employee of the waterpark who was one of the people attacked by the piranhas by biting his butt, pours gasoline into their draining pipes, and throws a lighter into the pipes, thus killing all of the piranhas. The celebration is cut short, when Maddy receives a call from a horrified Mr. Goodman, who informs her that his theory of the piranhas evolving to walk on land, is true while his specimen is seen to have escape its aquarium. The film ends when David videotapes a piranha, who in turn ate his head, while some survivors took videos of it and David Hasselhoff comments "Little ginger moron".
- The piranhas used in the movie appear to be loosely based from Megapiranha paranensis, a real life prehistoric piranha.
- The piranhas have a huge oppsition to their 1978 counterparts aside from being natural. While their 1978 counterparts are known for devouring a nude couple in the start of the movie, the piranhas in the start of their movie devour a random civilian such as fishermen and farmers.
- The piranha specimen Mr. Goodman has in Piranha 3DD is none other than the same specimen from the previous movie.
- The species that Mr. Goodman said was Pygocentrus Nattereri but there name for them is Red Bellied Piranha which is not Extinct.