Candiru – A Very Dangerous Fish?

The Candiru, also known as cañero, toothpick fish, or vampire fish, is a type of freshwater catfish in the family Trichomycteridae that is native to the Amazon Basin. It can be found in the countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Some people have heard the urban legend about a fish that swam up a man’s urine stream in the Amazon. As it turns out, it may not just be a legend. Jeremy Wade, from Animal Planet’s popular River Monsters TV show, met a man with an interesting story to tell:


According to Wikipedia, this is the only documented case of a candiru entering a human urethra in modern history and took place in Itacoatiara, Brazil in 1997. The victim (a 23-year-old man known only as “F.B.C.”) claimed a candiru “jumped” from the water into his urethra as he urinated while thigh-deep in a river. The victim traveled to Manaus on October 28, 1997, to undergo a two-hour urological surgery by Dr. Anoar Samad to remove the fish from his body.

In 1999, American marine biologist Stephen Spotte traveled to Brazil to extensively investigate. While he did not express any conclusions as to the accuracy of the incident, he did point out several observations that conflict with the claims of both the patient and Dr. Samad:

  • According to Samad, the patient claimed “the fish had darted out of the water, up the urine stream, and into his urethra.” While this is the most popularly known legendary trait of the candiru, according to Spotte it has been known conclusively to be a myth for more than a century, as it is impossible because of simple fluid physics.
  • The documentation and specimen provided indicate a fish that was 133.5 mm in length and had a head with a diameter of 11.5 mm. This would have required significant force to pry the urethra open to this extent. The candiru has no appendages or other apparatus that would have been necessary to accomplish this, and if it were leaping out of the water as the patient claimed, it would not have had sufficient leverage to force its way inside.
  • Samad’s paper claims the fish must have been attracted by the urine. This belief about the fish has been around for centuries, but was discredited in 2001. While this was merely speculation on Samad’s part based on the prevailing scientific knowledge at the time, it somewhat erodes the patient’s story by eliminating the motivation for the fish to have attacked him in the first place.
  • Samad claimed the fish had “chewed” its way through the ventral wall of the urethra into the patient’s scrotum. Spotte notes that the candiru does not possess the right teeth or strong enough dentition to have been capable of this.
  • Samad claimed he had to snip the candiru’s grasping spikes off in order to extract it, yet the specimen provided had all its spikes intact.
  • The cystoscopy video depicts traveling into a tubular space (presumed to be the patient’s urethra) containing the fish’s carcass and then pulling it out backwards through the urethral opening, something that would have been almost impossible with the fish’s spikes intact.

Now you have it folks, both sides of the story — do you think this is true or not? Let us know in the comments!

 

Be Safe! Know Before™.

The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team

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This entry was posted in Awareness, Nature, Phenomenon.