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Ciraxis

Don't pee in the amazon

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Ciraxis

The Terrifying Toothpick Fish

The vast freshwater ecosystem of the Amazon River is home to abundant animal life, and many of its species thrive by virtue of their ferocity. If one were to ask the locals which of the river's indigenous species is the most treacherous, a few might describe the roaming packs of carnivorous piranhas, or the massive anaconda snakes; but based on the general sentiment of the region, the most frequently uttered response would be "candirú."

The candirú is a tiny catfish which dwells in the depths of the Amazon River. These fish do not hunt in packs like the piranha, nor are they exceptionally large like the anaconda. In fact, the candirú is among the tiniest vertebrates on the planet, and it is sometimes referred to as the "toothpick fish" due to its small size and slender shape. Only a handful of people have had the misfortune of crossing paths with the candirú, but their experiences serve as cautionary tales to any who venture into the mighty river.

Though the candirú is a parasite, humans are not among its viable hosts. It lingers in the murky darkness at the river's bottom, quietly stalking its neighboring fish. Light is scarce in the soupy deep, but the candirú does not need to see… it can taste the traces of urea and ammonia that are expelled from breathing gills.

The tiny hunter shadows its prey, almost invisible due to its translucent body and small size. When the target fish exhales, the candirú detects the resulting flow of water and makes a dash for the exposed gill cavity with remarkable speed. Within less than a second it penetrates the gill and wriggles its way into place, erecting an umbrella-like array of spines to secure its position.

Unconcerned with the host's panicked thrashing, the firmly anchored parasite immediately nibbles a hole in a nearby artery with its needle-like teeth, feasting upon the bounty that gushes forth. Within two minutes the candirú's belly is swollen with the blood of its victim, and it retracts its gripping barbs. A candirú attached to a host fishThough it may seem that the exploited host fish has escaped, its injuries are so extensive that chances of survival are grim. Meanwhile the victorious attacker slinks back into the river's dark places to digest its meal.

There are many troubling stories regarding human run-ins with the candirú, though until recent years these were not given much credence by the medical community. It is not uncommon for people swimming or bathing in the river to urinate in the water, an action which creates tiny water currents that are rich in urea and ammonia. It seems that the tiny, slender catfish cannot always distinguish a urinating human from an exhaling fish gill, and on occasion it will attempt its trademark high-speed attack on some unfortunate soul.

Silvio Barbossa was one such soul. He was swimming in the Amazon River when he went head to head with the tiny parasite:

"I felt like urinating. I stood up, and it was then it attacked me. The candirú attacked me. […] When I saw it, I was terrified. I grabbed it quickly so it couldn't go deeper inside. I could only see the end of its tail flapping. I tried to grab it, but it slipped away from me and went in. […] I was very afraid, because the candirú bites."

When the candirú successfully invades a human, it proceeds exactly as it would with a fish host. After entering the misidentified orifice, it quickly wriggles its way in as far as possible, often accompanied by the victim's frantic attempts to grip the slippery, mucus-coated tail. In the unlikely event that the panicked victim manages to grasp the fish, its backwards-pointing barbs would cause excruciating pain at each pull, and bring a quick end to the dramatic tug-of-war. Once inside, the parasite inches its way up the urethra to the nearest blood-gorged membrane, extends its spines into the surrounding tissue, and starts feasting.

For the candirú, this misguided journey is a one-way trip; its bloody banquet leaves it too swollen to escape. The only known retaliation against the invader is delicate and expensive surgery, or failing that, a folk remedy which combines two herbs to very slowly kill and dissolve the fish. Silvio was fortunate enough to have access to modern medical facilities, though he had to endure three days of profound agony before the fish was extracted by an awestruck urogenital surgeon.

ilvio's incident was the first officially confirmed report of a candirú attacking a human, but such leg-crossingly horrific tales have haunted the region for generations. According to legend, many men chose castration as an alternative to a slow, excruciating death back before surgery was an option.

Though such brushes with the candirú are exceedingly rare in statistical terms, it is wise to heed the advice of the locals, and avoid urinating in the Amazon River at all costs. When the natives of the Amazon speak, one would be foolish not to listen. They are privy to some of the world's most horrible truths.

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=797#more-797

Edited by Ciraxis

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coldethyl

Noted and done.

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m. Moe

I saw a clip about this fish on animal planet before, and just hearing about it makes me shutter. :no:

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_Nyx_

No worries... if it's not a pool, I aint jumping in... the hell with that... :ph34r:

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Unlimited

makes a note; when in the amazon dont pee...got it.

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Bella-Angelique

Maybe a steel mesh bathing pant?

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The Silver Thong

OMG that is freaken nut's um I mean crazy. Even the name of it being used in the same sentence as peeing makes me cringe. All trips down the amazon are now canceled, because if I were to fall in I think I would pee myself ahhhhh stays in North America.

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nativechick1989

Oh geez ... :blink:

I agree with Nyx, if it ain't a pool, I ain't jumping in .. :no:

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chemical-licker

seen this before, to tell the truth IM FREAKING OUT!!! ow hang on when am i going to goto the amazon? NEVER im calm calm calm :sleepy:

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Robert1

I've heard of this fish before. if I ever go to the Amazon, I'll remember not to pee in the river.

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Tooth_and_Claw
No worries... if it's not a pool, I aint jumping in... the hell with that... :ph34r:

:lol: yeah i agree with that!!

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Gatofeo
No worries... if it's not a pool, I aint jumping in... the hell with that... :ph34r:

Dang Nyx, and I was gonna invite you to go skinny-dipping with me in a stock pond this summer.

Guess you're not the adventurous type, huh? :D

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R3LOAD

*zips up pants*.............my bad, i guess you should of posted it a minute earlier

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girty1600

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow!

I don't like to swim in rivers but I did used to water ski on the river near my home.

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_Nyx_
Dang Nyx, and I was gonna invite you to go skinny-dipping with me in a stock pond this summer.

Guess you're not the adventurous type, huh? :D

taking my kids to the grocery store with me is about as adventurous as I get.... :P

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Jules22871

I remember on one season of the Amazing Race ( I think that was it) they were in the Amazon and one of the teams had to quit because one of the men got one of those horrific little fish in his you know what. They showed him being carried out crying like a baby. After reading this, I can see why he was acting like that.

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Bone_Collector

OUCH! How big is this candirú?

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m. Moe
OUCH! How big is this candirú?

Not very big, and they are transparent so it is nearly impossible to see in the water.

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Conspiracy

<shreaks>

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Saint

HECTIC, hectic sh**e!!

Me staying faaar from Amazon

:passifier:

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Denzanrom

It's not like I can go to the Amazon but, geez, just don't pee in the water.

Of course, unless you were my friend, I might tend to get a little sadistic, and if I knew it wouldn't kill you, maybe I'll bring ammonia, maybe you p***ed me off, or something.... :P j/k

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Symbol

I've seen a show with this thing in it.

Edited by Symbol

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frogfish

It's not the size...it's the spines :o

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jimmyphelps

eeeeeeeewwwwwwww

wonder if you wear a condom in the water are you safe? rubber band it on

just stay out of the water yuck

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