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Desert Diary


PIRANHA!!!! Such a scream can catch almost anyone's attention, and some people think they've seen them in the Rio Grande! But all this confusion seems to be about another fish, called the pacu. It looks like a piranha, is about the same size, and if you dare get close enough, you'll see a mouth full of fierce-looking teeth!

Lucky for us, the pacu is NOT a meat-eater but a vegetarian. And perhaps we're luckier than we think. It seems our local pacu are feral—meaning they were once kept as pets, then released into the wild. Many people think they are being kind, but it can be harmful to release a species into a new habitat! Often, such introductions end up destroying the native environment! Some people have probably also released piranhas when they became too much trouble. If those fish had managed to mate, we could have a real problem! So be a responsible pet owner. Choose your pet carefully, and never abandon it. Otherwise, we could all pay!
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Photograph of Pacu

Death photograph of a Pacu taken from the Rio Grande at El Paso, TX. Photograph by Carl S. Lieb.

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