Once again, the grocery store shelves are filled with candy, the department stores brimming with costumes, and innocent trees are helplessly dreading the toilet paper showers they’ll be treated to in the near future. That’s right, it’s time for another Halloween. Even if you’re grown and no longer go out trick-or-treating or wreaking senseless havoc for some laughs, everyone still enjoys a good scare on Halloween, whether they’re 8 or 80. With that in mind, we’re making this article all about some of the scariest fish in the world to add a bit of a chill in your spine today.
Just hearing the name piranha strikes up all kinds of fearful images of ravenous fish tearing everything in sight up into smithereens. This fish is known for its aggressive behavior and its powerful appetite for meat, but did you know that there are more than 60 officially recognized species of piranhas out there? Fortunately for us, most of them are native to the waters of the Amazon basin1 and the lakes, rivers and coastal waters of South America. However, they have managed to spread a bit, showing up in the Asian countries of Bangladesh and China. A few malevolent folks have tried to introduce them in America, but they haven’t taken well to our waters. Be warned, importing a piranha into the United States is a felony.
Piranhas are generally not very large creatures, averaging only about 7-8 inches in length. This is more than made up for by their voracious appetites and take-no-prisoners nature. They only have one row of teeth, but they’re frighteningly sharp. They have powerful jaws that move at blinding rates of speed, allowing a group of piranhas to tear apart most forms of prey in mere seconds.
There is some evidence out there to suggest that these fish might not be quite as mean as they’re made out to be. Some scientists claim that they travel in schools as a form of defense, not as a killing tactic. They want strength in numbers to keep safe. However, attacks do happen and we can’t make these guys out to be choir boys when they obviously do pose real threats.
More often than not, the piranhas that people come across (and are most frequently attacked by) are of the Red-bellied piranha species. They carry out most of their attacks in shallow water areas, especially within the countries of Suriname, Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil. Since 2007, there have been a minimum of 337 confirmed piranha attacks within these countries in which people have either died or been seriously injured.
One particularly gruesome piranha attack occurred in the city of Rosario in Argentina. It took place on Christmas of 2013, when the sweltering heat had surpassed the triple digit mark. Ironically enough, residents sought to beat the heat by going for a cooling swim in a river by the name of Parana2. Unfortunately for these swimmers, they ended up going directly into a school of piranhas and over 60 people were attacked and suffered significant injuries. The beaches were surrounded by bleeding swimmers who suddenly had something much worse than uncomfortable weather to worry about.
Another fish whose name always manages to stir up at least a little bit of fear is the barracuda. It has a mean and menacing appearance, as can be seen in the photo below. Unlike piranhas, barracudas grow to be quite large, often reaching 7 feet in length and a foot in circumference3. They are a saltwater fish who mostly make their homes in the tropical and sub-tropical oceanic waters of the Atlantic Ocean (traveling as far north as North Carolina), Caribbean Sea and Red Sea. They have also been spotted in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
Barracudas generally stay close to the surface of the water, but find ways to remain hidden. They like to hide and wait to ambush prey in coral reefs as well as in tall sea grasses. These are fish who can move with an explosive amount of speed, often jetting through the water at over 30 miles per hour. That might not sound all that fast until you take into account the fact that it’s over two times as fast as the average human can swim. They use this speed to burst out of hiding and ambush their prey. A barracuda is rarely a picky eater. They’ll eat most anything they can catch, but some of their favorites include grouper, snapper, tuna, mullet and jack mackerel.
Most barracudas will present a somewhat snake-like body with a mean looking face accentuated by an underbite. Their flanks are usually silver while the top of their bodies can either present a dark green or dark blue tone. They possess a massive amount of very sharp and very strong teeth with powerful jaws to match. This enables them to kill most of their prey with a single bite and a sharp tear. One hard chomp is usually all it takes for them to send their prey into the next life. Even though they are much smaller, the immense speed, strength, and teeth of barracudas allow them to compete with the much larger dolphins for food.
Luckily, barracudas are largely solitary animals and don’t travel in schools like piranhas do. Still, they are highly dangerous and pose an even more significant threat, even while alone. Divers and swimmers must always be on the lookout for these fish while in the areas where they live, as it could be curtains for them if the barracuda sees them before they see the barracuda.
Sometimes the hunter can become the hunted, and this is the case with the barracuda. They are a highly prized game fish among deep sea fishermen, who are aware of the fact that even though most live near the surface, some will live as deep as 1,000 feet below the surface of the sea. They are a great-tasting fish too, presenting a firm flesh and satisfyingly smoky flavor. Even on the dinner table they can still be a threat, as the larger Great Barracudas found in certain areas of the Caribbean Sea can carry the neurotoxin ciguatera in their flesh. This is due to small plants which inhabit the same areas giving off small doses of this toxin. It is very dangerous and can even be fatal to a human, so make sure you know where your barracuda came from when you’re getting ready to eat it.
Saving the best for last, we’re now going to talk about the Great White shark. This shark is notorious for its size and strength and is so greatly feared throughout the world that one of its alternate names is “White Death”. They can grow to be more than 20 feet long and weigh far in excess of 7,000 pounds.
In addition to their massive size, great whites are also very fast, being able to propel themselves through the ocean at speeds topping 35 miles per hour. They can also live to be more than 70 years old and are found on every ocean on Earth. Needless to say, these few facts back up the obvious truth that we aren’t going to be seeing the last of this species any time soon.
While they often dine on sea birds and will eat most any kind of fish, great whites have a special taste for human meat as well. In fact, they are responsible for more fatal attacks on humans every year than any other species on the face of the planet.
If you’re in a coastal area that features water temperatures between the mid 50s and upper 70s, watch out. These are the waters where you are most likely to run into a great white. They will travel as far as 1,200 feet below sea level to chase prey and will be especially populous in areas where large game fish, seals, sea lions and walruses exist in abundance.
In regard to appearance, the great white is tremendous in size and has a large head that is accented by a rounded, semi-conically shaped nose. Their undersides are purely white and but their flanks will often feature a mottled mixture of blue, green, gray, brown and white. They have several rows of terrifyingly sharp teeth, many of which can snap off when they kill their prey by shaking them in the grips of their teeth and tearing from side to side. These teeth can regenerate, so it’s no big deal for a great white if it loses a few during the course of a meal.
We’ll end this discussion on scary fish by empowering you a bit and easing your fears by sharing a scarily delicious recipe for grilled barracuda, courtesy of TheChefMother.blogspot.com. Now, you can be the one chowing down on one of the most dangerous creatures of the sea, rather than it being the other way around.
Grilled Barracuda Steaks
Ingredients: 4 barracuda fillets, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground black pepper, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp dried basil, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp of dijon mustard and 1/2 cup of olive oil4.
1. Soak the barracuda fillets in milk overnight. Drain the milk in the morning and dispose of it.
2. Mix all of the ingredients (except for the fish) together in a large bowl and then add in the fillets and let them marinate for 30 minutes.
3. Grill the fillets for 30-60 minutes, testing often to see if they are cooked through. Remove them from the grill once they are thoroughly cooked.
4. Cut the fillets, baste them with what’s left of the marinade and serve4.
1. Author Unavailable
2. Mail Foreign Service
Girl Loses Part of Finger and 60 are Injured in a Mass Piranha Attack on Christmas Day in Argentina
DailyMail.com, December 26, 2013
3. Author Unavailable
Great White Shark
4. Eagle, Karen
Grilled Barracuda Steaks