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Pennis-Biting Fish May Be Invading Denmark

Danish skinny-dippers beware: A piranha
cousin rumored to go after testicles might be
invading brackish waters near Copenhagen.
On Aug. 4, local fisherman Einar Lindgreen was
going through his catch after fishing in the
Oresund, the strait between Denmark and
Sweden. Besides the eels and perch,
Lindgreen also netted an exotic fish suspected to
be a red-bellied pacu, which is native to the
Amazon and has uncannily human-looking
"It's the first time this species has been caught
in the wild in Scandinavia," fish expert Peter
Rask Møller of the University of Copenhagen
said in a statement.
"Discovering whether this
fish is a lone wanderer or a new invasive
species will be very exciting. And a bit
scary." [Photos: The Freakiest-Looking Fish]
The toothy South American fish has crept into
lakes and rivers far outside its native range,
likely after getting loose from aquariums and
fish farms. Though its teeth are used mainly to
crush nuts and fruits, the pacu eats other fish
and invertebrates and there have been some
reports of human attacks. In Papua New
Guinea, the invasive species has reportedly
earned a reputation as the "ball-cutter" after
castrating a couple of local fishermen.

The specimen snagged by Lindgreen measured
just less than 8 inches (20 centimeters) long but
the pacu can grow much larger. Some can
even weigh as much as 55 pounds (25 kg),
according to the University of Copenhagen.
According to Møller, amateur aquarium owners
and fish farmers are the "usual suspects" when
an exotic fish like the pacu ends up on the loose.
"It is not unlikely that someone has emptied
their fish tank into a nearby stream just before a
vacation and that the pacu then swam out into
the brackish waters of Oresund," Møller
explained in a statement. "We don't know of
any commercial farming of pacus in Europe.
But just like the piranhas the pacus are quite
easy for amateurs to raise."
Researchers still have to confirm the identity of
the fish through genetic testing, since there are
several species of pacu that look similar when
young and hybrid species produced in the
aquaculture business.
But for now the University of Copenhagen had
some cautionary advice for the public: "Anyone
choosing to bathe in the Oresund these days
had best keep their swimsuits well tied."

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