The pacu is a freshwater fish whose natural home is the Amazon River in South America. It’s considered a close cousin of the better-known piranha. However, the pacu’s teeth are almost human-looking, unlike the sharp daggers of the piranha.

The pacu first became known to me via the Animal Planet show River Monsters. In one episode, show host Jeremy Wade describes in morbid detail how the pacu “disfigured the genitals” of a man cooling off in the river.¬†Ouch!

New Jersey residents, beware. Angler Ron Rossi recently caught a pacu in a South New Jersey pond. Further details can be found in this National Geographic article.

pacu_yumaA relative of the piranhas with a mythical taste for human flesh was found in a New Jersey lake this weekend, setting off fears about the spread of invasive species.

The fish, thought to be a South American pacu, is known for its teeth, which bear an eerie resemblance to human teeth. Pacus primarily eat plants and are considered mostly harmless to people, despite their kinship with piranhas. But they do occasionally eat other fish and can potentially outcompete native species or spread parasites or disease.

Pacus normally ply the waters of the Amazon and other South American river systems, but angler Ron Rossi caught one in Swedes Lake in southern New Jersey over the weekend.

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Photos: WPVI (top); Yuma Sun (above)