A fisherman from the northern Californian town of Petaluma reeled a strange looking fish on Tuesday. The fish belongs to a piranha-related family called pacu fish.
Juan Gallo was fishing in a California pond when he caught a fish that he had never seen before. Pacu fish are actually native from the Amazonian and are illegal to own in California.
“It landed on the dirt and you could tell it wasn’t anything we had seen before,” said fisherman Juan Gallo to The Press Democrat in a statement.
The name “Pacu” originally comes from a Brazilian origin, when aquarium tradings began between the U.S other countries. Experts began labeling the species as Pacu, although in Brazil and in the Amazon it is generally used for “smaller fish”.
The “Pacu” term doesn’t belong to a specific species of Brazilian fish. In fact, it is used as a general name to label omnivorous freshwater fish from South America that are related to piranhas.
Pacu fishes could be classified as cousins of the commonly known piranha fish, although their teeth are quite different. Piranhas have pointy razor sharp teeth with a large underbite and feed mostly with other fish or different animals.
Meanwhile, the piranha’s cousins have straight and square teeth, very similar to human teeth with a moderate underbite and more of an overbite. Pacu fish is also bigger than their distant cousin. The normal size of a pacu fish is around three feet and measure around 55 pounds.
The scientific name for the Pacu fish is Colossoma Genus, although, in some countries like Peru, the Piaractus Brachypomum species is also labeled as a Pacu fish, as wells as the Piaractus Mesopotamicus species from Panama.
Getting to know the Pacu fish
A big difference between a piranha and the pacu fish is their feeding habits. While piranha feeds primarily on other fish meat, Pacu fishes are categorized as an omnivorous species and are often labeled as vegetarians.
The human-like jaw of the pacu is commonly used to crush and feed on floating fruits and nuts that fall from the Amazonian trees. In some cases, Amazon male swimmers have reported a big bite on their testicles by pacu fishes that mistake them for nuts.
Thanks to the confusion, pacu fish are often called “ball-cutters” after an incident in Papua New Guinea that caused the castration of a local fisherman.
Even though the fish feeds mostly on fruits and nuts, its jaw could be very dangerous. One case was reported at the Scottish Edinburgh Butterfly and Insect World where a toddler got a finger bitten by a pacu fish and ended up in surgery.
Pacu fish are legal in the U.S and are available at local pet and aquarium stores, yet owners are sometimes not aware of the size that pacus can grow and dump them in nearby lakes, which then harms natural ecosystems.
Source: The Press Democrat