The Pacu fish is an all-devouring, or omnivorous, species native to South America and is closely related to the razor-toothed piranha. The noticeable difference between its close relative, the piranha, and the Pacu is the fish’s human-like teeth. There is speculation as to how this fish got halfway across the world and ended up in a popular fishing spot used by locals and tourist alike.
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Reports indicate that pet-owners are discarding the fish when their tanks are no longer able to house the growing creature.
Don’t let its size fool you; it is a very agile fish. The one-meter (3.2ft) long fish can weigh up to 11kg (25lb). It is the river dweller’s frighteningly powerful jaws that make it distinctive in the underwater world. Its gnashers have been described as “human-like” – square, blunt dentures designed to crush up a mixed diet of fruit, nuts and vegetation as well as shellfish and insects.
The fish’s surprise discovery in the Michigan waters isn’t expected to affect the local environment as the hard Michigan winter is likely to kill the fish. Not to say that their impact couldn’t become more serious with climate changes, states Michigan’s wildlife department.
“Pet release is almost never humane,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or shelter.”
“In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species.”
A Danish professor’s “half joking” suggestion that the Pacu could mistake swimmer’s testicles for fruit floating in the water would strike real fear in men everywhere! Thankfully, there are no confirmed reports of this actually happening. Whew!
Professor Peter Rask Moller insists that, “It is very unlikely that you would actually meet one here and that it would bite you,” he said. “I’ll keep my shorts on, though.” Thanks professor, judging from the photos I think I will just stay out of the Michigan water all together for the foreseeable future.