A species of invasive fish native to South America and known for its human-like teeth has been caught in a Southern New Jersey lake, but the animal’s reputation for biting off men’s testicles is overblown, according to scientists.
The pacu gained their unusual reputation as a “testicle eating fish” in 2011 when they were featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s River Monsters, hosted by Jeremy Wade. As the Huffington Post reports, Wade related stories that concerned the deaths of two Indonesian men, who had reportedly lost their testicles to the fish. In just a short time, the story was picked up by other media and quickly made the pacu an internet sensation.
— Eric Berger (@chronsciguy) June 24, 2015
“I had heard of a couple of fishermen in Papua, New Guinea, who had been castrated by something in the water,” Wade claimed. “The bleeding was so severe that they died. The locals told me that this thing was like a human in the water, biting at the testicles of fishermen. They didn’t know what it was.”
Over the weekend, angler Ron Rossi caught one of the testicle eating fish in Swedes Lake, which is located in Southern New Jersey. Based on photographs, the specimen appears to be only a few inches long, as National Geographic reports, and could have been kept as a pet before it was deposited in the lake, according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
“Many times, these fish are deposited into lakes by pet owners. These fish do not survive in colder water, so we encourage people not to release it into the wild but to humanely destroy the fish.”
— Rafa Castorena (@SA_Crimson_Idol) June 24, 2015
Despite the fearsome reputation that the fish have garnered online, which has led many to believe that they confuse human testicles with tree nuts, researchers assert that the chances of a pacu attacking a person are extremely slim. Though some cases of the pacu biting humans have been reported, Peter Rask Møller, a fish expert at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen, noted that they remain the exception rather than the rule.
“Its teeth and powerful bite can for sure be dangerous, but to [have it bite you] is highly unlikely.”
Pacu!!! South American fish that lives in the Amazon River it has humanlike teeth!!! pic.twitter.com/ZG5ypAixk6
— Leon Crues (@CruesLeon) June 25, 2015
Despite its native habitat being the Amazon river basin, the fish has popped up in the United States before, as the Inquisitr previously reported. The fish has been sighted or caught in a number of states, including Colorado, California, Wyoming, Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, Utah, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, and Wisconsin, as well as another prior sighting in New Jersey.
While its presence in American waterways can’t be denied, the pacu’s reputation as a testicle eating fish, however, appears to be little more than the stuff of legend.
[Image via World News Tonight/ Twitter]