Monday 22 June 2009

Giant man eating fish

KUALA BERANG: A giant fish that supposedly caused the deaths of two men on Tuesday could have been the highly predatory and aggressive arapaima gigas. Fish biologist Dr Mohd Fadzil Suhaimi Ramli said the natural habitat of the fish which could reach 4.9m was the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America. He said the fish that the locals dubbed as ikan naga due to its features that were similar to the mystical dragon could have been released into the lake by someone when it became too large Due to its size, this fish preys on local species which are smaller in size,” he told The Star.Mohd Fahmi said the arapaima would become aggressive when hungry. Arapaima gigas have an elongated body covered with large, thick scales and a small tail. Its wide mouth faces upward and the colour ranges from dark brown to black with blue highlights and red edges, particularly on the tail. It could leap several metres into the air and its powerful head could capsize small boats on impact. Meanwhile, villagers at Kampung Baung – that borders Tasik Kenyir – claimed that they have witnessed the monstrous arapaima leaping high into the air on several occasions. A villager who did not want to be named claimed that he had once sighted a giant fish the size of a baby elephant. Another villager Mohd Fahmi Mustafa, 25, said his grandfather told him that an old Chinese man appeared one day at the village in the late 70s and released two fish that resembled a dragon into the then Kenyir river.“My grandpa said the old man had claimed that the fish were from overseas and that he had to release them as they had become too big,” he said.On Tuesday, bird park supervisor Helmi Sukhri Hisham, 28, drowned after he mysteriously fell off his boat.State Fire and Rescue Department driver Aladi Hasan, 41, who had gone to the lake to search for him, also drowned. see full story here :

And some more info:

Within the Amazon basin, A. gigas is found in several different types of habitat, such as the floodplain lakes of this region, the large tributaries of the Amazon river including the Rio Madera and the Rio Machado, and the varzea or forest. The pirarucu inhabits both white water and clear water. Much of the water that comprises the pirarucu's habitat is also oxygen deficient, as it is located in swampy areas of the rainforest. A. gigas is a predator that mainly eats other fish. If a bird or some other animal happens to be present, this large predator will also eat that animal. The pirarucu usually finds food near the top of the water because it is an obligate air breather that needs to surface every 10-20 min. However, the pirarucu is also capable of diving.

(Lowe-McConnell, 1987; Goulding, 1980)

Fossils of arapaima or a very similar species have been found in the Miocene Villavieja Formation of Colombia. So they have been around along time. Certainly a dangerous fish to come across. Even when caught they are apparently quite difficult to handle but have been overfished in their native habitat as they are apparently good to eat. Seems to me this one is getting his own back .

Goulding, M. 1980. Fishes and the Forest, Explorations in Amazonian Natural History. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Lowe-McConnell, R. 1987. Ecological Studies in Tropical Fish Communities. London: Cambridge University Press.

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