Say Hello To Sauron The Veggie Piranha

Say Hello To Sauron The Veggie Piranha

Piranhas’ vegetarian cousins are known as pacus, and you’ve likely seen photos of their curiously human-like teeth circulating online. Now, a knew member has joined the ranks after being identified in the Amazon, and it’s been named Myloplus sauron after the Dark Lord of the same name in J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord Of The Rings because of a distinctive mark on its side that looks like the Eye Of Sauron.

“As soon as my colleagues suggested the name for this fish, we knew it was perfect for it,” said lead author Dr Rupert Collins, Senior Curator in Charge of fish at London’s Natural History Museum, in a statement. “Its pattern looks a lot like the Eye of Sauron, especially with the orange patches on its body.”

Rather than sitting atop the tower of Barad-dûr in Mordor, the fish was retrieved from the Amazon River, where an estimated 42 percent of fish are thought to be new-to-science species.

“With so much undescribed biodiversity in the Amazon and surrounding rivers, it’s so important to highlight just how little we know about many of the animals we share our world with,” added Collins in a statement seen by IFLScience. “Even just basic things like what they look like and where they live. In order to protect the biodiversity we share the Earth with, we must first understand it.”

a pacu fish with a black mark on its side that looks like the eye of sauron

For weeny fish in the Amazon, the Eye Of Sauron is actually a good sign that they’ve encountered the vegetarian version of piranhas.

Image credit: © Mark H. Sabaj

Myloplus sauron is a pacu fish, the name given to the very close relatives of piranhas, with the key distinction between the two fish groups being that pacus are vegetarian. Its diet is reflected in its curious dentition that’s described as looking similar to that of a human.

The human-like teeth of pacu have seen them circulate in the press time and time again, often turning up in non-native ecosystems when they get too big as pets and are released into the environment. With enough space and ample resources, these fish can stretch to 1 meter (3 feet) long, weighing 20 kilograms (44 pounds). Their mighty size and dentition have led some to believe they might be dangerous, but they’re herbivorous fish. However, that didn’t stop them from getting a reputation for biting off people’s testicles.

According to Snopes, a testicle-biting incident reportedly occurred in 2001 when a male swimmer was chomped on the nads by a pacu in Papua New Guinea. In reality, these fish evolved to eat fruits and have seed-crushing teeth as a result. Good for grinding up nuts of the non-human kind, but not very proficient at snipping off testicles.

So, don’t let the name Sauron fool you. This veggie icon isn’t out for blood or those nuts.

The study is published in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology.

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