In Sweden, male skinny dippers have been warned about the dangers of the pacu, or “ball-cutter” fish, a relative of the piranha. It’s a fish that’s become infamous for attacking testicles, which has been known to kill its victims by its vicious attacks.
The warning was issued by Denmark’s Natural History Museum after one of the eight-inch (21 cm) fish was caught in an eel trap located in the Oresund Sound off the south coast of Sweden.
A fish expert, Henrick Carl, at the Natural History Museum of Denmark told Swedish news site The Local that the pacu bite “because they’re hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth.”
Mr. Carl added:
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 ….”
Eerily, the pacu, a freshwater fish native to the Amazon River, has teeth that are very similar to human teeth.
The warning issued by the Natural History Museum included these ominous but direct words:
Keep your swimwear on if you’re bathing in the Sound these days – maybe there are more out there!”
Normally found in the warmer waters of the Amazon, the pacu are voracious and can grow up to 90cm (35 inches) and 25kg.
To be absolutely certain that the fish in question is a pacu, the museum is testing its DNA.
Mr. Carl added to The Local that the pacu are very similar in appearnce to their relatives, the pirnaha:
They are almost identical to the piranha. It’s just that they have different teeth. Flatter and stronger, perfect for crushing.”
According to Carl:
…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, especially now in Sweden.”
Though the pacu is normally considered to be a vegetarian, Mr. Carl’s warning is not excessive, as a couple of fishermen died of blood loss in Papua New Guinea in 2011, after pacu fish made one of their testicle-biting attacks on their genitals.
It is no wonder that local residents have nicknamed the nut-munching fish “The Ball Cutter.”
Jeremy Wade featured the pacu in an episode of his fascinating series for Animal Planet, “River Monsters.” He spent weeks hunting for the fish in remote Papua New Guinea soon after the two fishermen died, and he said of the pacu “the locals told me that this thing was like a human in the water, biting at the testicles of fishermen.”
The pacu’s attacks on humans might very well be just a case of mistaken identity, but if you happen to be a male in Sweden who likes to skinny dip, hearing these warnings about the the “ball-cutter” fish might be just enough to make you reconsider and wear a swim suit.
Written by: Douglas Cobb