BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A fish closely-related to the piranha has been recently spotted in Michigan lakes even though the species is native to Orinoco and Amazon rivers in South America. But the truly disturbing fact about this fish is not its new habitat but its teeth, which are uncannily similar to human teeth.
The fish, also known as the red-bellied pacu, branches out from the piranha family, but unlike its distant relative the pacu is on a vegetarian diet. Pacus are loved by exotic fish collectors due to their bizarre teeth that look very human-like.
According to recent reports, the weird fish however has been spawning in locations it shouldn’t be in: Port Huron and Lake St. Clair in Mich. Anglers reported catching three specimens last month. Biologists at the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) believe that the rare fish may be pets discarded by their owners in local lakes.
Pacus’ home is the Orinoco basin and Amazon river. They resemble piranhas due to their flat bodies, but their human-like teeth are not used to eat flesh, but to crush nuts and seeds in South American waters.
An adult pacu can grow up to 35 inches, so sometimes pet owners consider that it is best to let the pacus go as there is little space left in their tank. DNR researchers explained that this is how pacus ended up in Michigan’s lakes recently.
Authorities don’t expect pacus to accommodate with the state’s lakes as they need warm waters to thrive. So during wintertime, many of them will likely die which means that releasing the pets into the wild could spell their doom.
Furthermore, introducing a new species into an ecosystem can have unexpected implications on the native species and the overall ecosystem, state researchers explained.
It is not the first time pacus make an appearance in Michigan lakes, but it is the first time when anglers catch three of them within a week. DNR officials believe that the fish could originate from the same tank which was emptied at the same site.
DNR experts explained that pacus are tropical fish, and the state is far from being “tropical.” Authorities don’t expect the fish to survive the winter so there is no danger of an invasion any time soon.
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