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any of the numerous freshwater fishes of the family Characidae. Hundreds of species of characins are found in Central and South America, a smaller number in tropical Africa. Characins are distinguished by toothed jaws and, usually, an adipose (second dorsal) fin on the back. They range in form from a small, blind cave fish (Anoptichthys jordani) of Mexico to the salmonlike tigerfishes (Hydrocynus) of Africa and the deep-bodied piranhas (Serrasalmus) of South America. They range from 2.5 to 152 cm (1 inch to 5 feet) in length and from herbivorous to carnivorous in diet. Many simply scatter their eggs among aquatic plants, but the spraying characin (Copeina arnoldi), placed in a separate family, Lebiasinidae, deposits its spawn out of water on an overhanging leaf or other suitable object, the male keeping the eggs moist by periodically splashing water on them with his tail