Men of New Jersey, beware. First it was Denmark, then the Seine River in Paris, now the bizarre fish known as the “ball cutter” for its reputed propensity to chew off testicles of male swimmers with its fearsome, human-like teeth has appeared in a lake in Passaic.
On Saturday, a 77-year-old retired bus driver and avid fisherman caught a 10-inch Pacu in Third Ward Veterans Memorial Park. At first Tom Boylan thought he had a piranha on his line, when he saw the rows of teeth.
But, he recalled, piranha teeth are sharp. This fish had teeth that looked more like those of a human being.
“I would say ‘shocked’ is a good way to describe how I felt,” Boylan told a New Jersey paper.
The pacu can grow up to four feet long. Despite its bizarre dental display, the fish is actually a vegetarian. Its rock-hard teeth are used to crack open nuts that comprise a large part of the pacu diet.
Ominously, according to anecdotal tales from South America where the fish is native, as well as from Papua New Guinea, the fish has sometimes mistaken human testicles for the nuts that it craves. When it bites down to crack those nuts, the results are not pretty.
However, aquatic experts say that the fish’s cringe-inducing reputation is probably undeserved.
"I think it's just a rumor," said Danish aquarium curator Lars Skou Olsen. "There's no need for swimmers to worry at all.”
But how did the fearsome fish find its way into a lake located in a Passaic public park?
“Most likely, someone had it in their fish tank and it grew too big, so they dumped it,” said Pat Egan, manager of a nearby pet store that specializes in fish. “We call them ‘tank busters.’ We don’t even sell them because they grow so big.”
Pacu are legal to own as pets.
SOURCES: NorthJersey.com, National Geographic