The online fish news world has been abuzz over the last several days with stories about a “testicle” eating fish that was captured off the coast of Denmark. The fish, a relative of the piranha known as a pacu (Colossoma macropomum), a vegetarian native to South America, was far from its native and warm waters of the Amazon River and its tributaries when it was captured in Oresund Sound, which separates Denmark from Sweden. Mainstream news sites from MSN Now to GQ.com apparently took a scientist’s joking comments seriously and fanned a firestorm of fear into every ocean going male water enthusiast in the Scandinavian country.
The rumor was fueled by comments that one of the pacu’s favorite foods were nuts, and that they possess teeth that are capable of cracking nuts.
Henrik Carl of the Natural History Museum of Denmark, told Sweden’s The Local that the pacu’s “mouth is not so big, so of course it normally eats nuts, fruit, and small fish, but human testicles are just a natural target. It’s not normal to get your testicles bitten off, of course, but it can happen, especially now in Sweden.”
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“All we said last week (with a smile) was that male swimmers should keep their pants on in case there are more pacus out there in our cold Baltic waters,” Peter Rask Møller, a fish expert at Denmark’s University of Copenhagen, said in an email to National Geographic. “Its teeth and powerful bite can for sure be dangerous, but to meet one here and [have it bite you] is highly unlikely, of course.”
The news of the pacu captured off the coast of Denmark came with an unsubstantiated story that the mainstream news media ran with, of two men losing their lives in Papua New Guinea after having their testicles bitten off, supposedly by a pacu. The pacu is apparently also known as “the ball cutter” in that country.
Juvenile pacus can often be found for sale at local fish stores, but it is considered a tankbuster in that it grows too large for most, if not all home aquariums. The fish can grow to more than 60 pounds and can live more than 20 years.