Fish

Red-Bellied Pacu

posted: 03/18/14
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Red-Bellied Pacu
Daniel Huertas/Icon Films
See MoreRed-Bellied Pacu Pictures, The Mouth of Madness (video)

Maximum Length:

35 inches

Maximum Weight:

55 pounds

All in the Family:

The red-bellied pacu is the cousin of a very well-known fish that terrorizes swimmers in made-for-TV movies and on the big screen: the piranha. These family members sure know how to use their sharp teeth to make their prey scream for mercy. The red-bellied pacu, however, have squarer, straighter teeth more like those of humans, and they primarily use them to cut through vegetation growing in the water.

Moving on Up:

Red-bellied pacu, which can get as long as 35 inches (88 centimeters) and weigh as much as 55 pounds (25 kilograms), live in Papua New Guinea, but their ancestors didn't originate there. In the 1990s, more than 14,000 pacu fish — as well as several other fish species — were shipped in from Indonesia and were released into lakes in Papua New Guinea's Sepik and Ramu rivers. This initiative was part of the part of the FISHAID project to increase fishery in the region.

Fish Attack:

The red-bellied pacu's diet consists mainly of insects, fruits and nuts. Their large choppers are perfect for cracking open rubber tree nuts and crushing seeds. However, the pacu started feeding on other fish in 1999, when their usual food sources became scarce. The locals in Papua New Guinea even blame these river monsters for destroying the tilapia fish population. The pacu have been known to attack humans, too. In 2001, two fishermen in two separate incidents reportedly bled to death after their genitals had been bitten off by pacu fish.

Jeremy Wade's Tips for Catching Red-Bellied Pacu:

"Pacu are very strong fish and powerful fighters. In fact, I was lucky to get this one in. I had to hold it away from sunken bushes and also bits of stilt houses that were in the water."

For the full story, watch Jeremy Wade's How to Catch a Red-Bellied Pacu.

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