Pacu Panic: The “Testicle-Eating” Fish May Not Be So Scary After All

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Home / Pacu Panic: The “Testicle-Eating” Fish May Not Be So Scary After All

Is the pacu so scary? Experts don’t think so. Picture by Thorke Østergaard.

A fisherman has found a pacu, the so-called ‘testicle-eating fish’ in Europe – are swimmers in danger?

The pacu, a type of omnivorous South American freshwater fish related to the piranha, is swimming far from its home – in places like Paris, Denmark and Sweden. Unlike the piranha, who has pointed, razor sharp teeth for cutting, the pacu has squarer, straighter teeth for crushing.

With the pacu’s disturbingly human-like teeth and reports of the fish dining on men’s testicles, it is no wonder people are afraid of this creature.

Pacu in Europe

A fisherman caught a pacu in European waters for the first time in August – in the Strait of Oresun; another recent pacu sighting took place near Paris.

Because of incidences in other countries, in which testicles have been bitten off, authorities have given out a warning for men to stay in their trunks and be “wary while skinny dipping.”

The reports worldwide range anywhere from a child having her finger bitten by a pacu in an aquarium and needing surgery, to fishermen in South America being attacked by the pacu, and bleeding to death after losing their testicles.

Because of its smaller mouth, the pacu normally eats nuts (tree nuts), fruits, insects, and small fish. While the pacu is not an aggressive carnivore like the piranha, it can turn to meat if its food supply is scarce. Thus, its strong crushing jaw system, used mainly for eating seeds and nuts, can be dangerous.

Lars Skou Olsen, curator of Copenhagen’s Blue Planet Aquarium, told National Geographic, however, the pacu’s reputation is “overblown and probably not even true.”

The pacu, also called the ‘ball-cutter fish’ that was found in the Strait of Oresun is the only one that has been caught wild in Scandinavian waters, and it’s likely that most people will never see a pacu in the wild.

Are Pacu Dangerous? 

Mainly vegetarian, pacu have been commonly sold as pets to home aquarium owners. In Seattle, for example, there is a restaurant owner who kept a pacu in his front window aquarium for many years before it died. The owners “considered him part of the family,” according to the Seattle Times. They described him as being like a dog, “rubbing his body on your arms.” The fish was fed carrots and apples, and on special occasions was given grapes.

Pacu can grow up to three feet, and can weight up to 55 pounds, without regard to aquarium size. Since many people are unaware of this, and are incapable of taking care of the fish when it gets too big, many owners release their pets into the wild illegally, causing problems to the environment and human imagination.

Although there are many scary stories about the pacu, they don’t deserve their terrifying reputation any more than the candiru.

Resources:

Morse, Felicity. Testicle-eating fish, the Pacu, found in Paris with fears it could be coming to the UK. (2013). The Independent. Accessed September 5, 2013.

Huffington Post. Pacu, Testcle-Biting Fish, Caught Near Paris in the Seine. (2013). Accessed September 5, 2013.

Chappell, Bill. Beware the Pacu, Experts Tell Men Who Skinny-Dip in Scandinavia. (2013). NPR.  Accessed September 5, 2013.

Tan, Ker. Fears of ‘Testicle-Eating’ Fish Overblown. (2013). National Geographic. Accessed September 5, 2013.

Davila, Florangela. Chinatown Fixture Swish was “part of the family. (2013). Seattle Times. Accessed September 5, 2013.

The Scotsman. Girl needs surgery for piranha bite to finger. (2013). Accessed September 5, 2013.

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