Testicle-Eating Pacu Fish Found in Michigan Lake

People are dumping this non-native relative of the piranha into U.S. waterways, and it's putting red, white and blue balls at risk

Holley Luft was fishing with her husband at Michigan’s Lake St. Claire last week when she reeled in an unusual-looking fish. At first she thought it was a bluegill, a panfish common to North America, but then she opened its mouth and saw big, human-like teeth. Luft had caught herself a pacu, aka “the ball cutter.”

Native to South America, the omnivorous freshwater fish is usually found in the Amazon and the rivers of Papua New Guinea. However, the pacu find in Michigan is just the most recent sighting in U.S. waterways, where aquarium owners allegedly dump the fish after finding them too big or too aggressive. In addition to Luft’s 14-inch specimen, pacus have been found in Illinois and New Jersey in recent years.

A relative of the piranha, the pacu’s regular diet consists of tree nuts, but it has also been known to eat human flesh—leading to its sullied reputation for testicle chomping. When a wild pacu was found in waters off Denmark, Henrik Carl of the Natural History Museum of Denmark warned male swimmers to keep their trunks tied tight. “They bite because they’re hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouths,” he said. “And its 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.”

While his comments were meant to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, the predilection is not completely unfounded. Two men in Papua New Guinea allegedly died in 2011 after pacus castrated them, and a toddler required surgery when one of the fish (originally misreported to be a piranha) bit her finger at Scottish wildlife center in 2004.

Our takeaway? Dangling bits beware.

CRIME

How To Join An Outlaw Biker Gang

James King
HEALTH

Nearly 20% Of Female College Freshmen Are Victims Of Rape

Joshua A. Krisch
SCIENCE

Suicide Rates Among Black Kids Have Skyrocketed

Joshua A. Krisch
CRIME

Clearing The Rape Kit Backlog Is Fraught With Obstacles

Abigail Tracy
SCIENCE

USDA's New GMO Labels Fly In The Face Of Science

Joshua A. Krisch
SCIENCE

These Robotic Arms Can Sew Skin Onto A Grape

Jonathan Sanger
DRUGS

Aerial Spraying Cocaine Plants Is Not Only Deadly, It's Inefficient

James King
LGBT

Gay Traffic Lights Get Little Love From Vienna's Far Right

Luke Malone