There are more than 33,000 known fish species that range from less than an inch to well over 1,000 pounds, the variety is stunning. Fish generally keep their distance when they encounter people but a fraction of these fish are aggressive or dangerous to humans and within that group, have been accused of eating people.
The first dangerous fish that comes to mind is probably a shark. Several species of sharks have occasionally been known to bite people but typically leave once they realize it’s not prey. The three most dangerous sharks are the great white, tiger, and bull shark which are responsible for the majority of attacks and deaths. Sharks have been known to bite humans but they also eat plenty of other strange things.
In the 16th century, a full suit of armor was pulled from the stomach of a great white, making it a safe guess that they were eaten. Some of the more unusual things that have been found in the stomach of sharks include tires, bottles, a chicken coop, and even porcupine quills. The problem with sharks is that they are apex predators with giant teeth, great eyesight, and a curiosity that is dangerous for everyone around them.
Sharks use all of their senses to hunt for prey but if they aren’t sure what something is the only way for them to investigate is with their mouth. This results in many shark attacks consisting of a bite or two which is a short event but potentially deadly. With the amount of research that has been done on sharks it's safe to say that while sharks have eaten people, we aren’t their preferred prey.
These schooling fish have been the villains of many legends along the Amazon River. Piranhas are aggressive fish with sharp teeth and feed in a swarm of violence. These fish can grow up to 15 inches but working together allows them to eat larger prey. While attacks on humans are supposedly uncommon, they become exceptionally aggressive during their breeding season or during times of drought.
In the last decade reports of piranha attacks have been easy to find but they typically involved swimmers getting warning bites in areas that were experiencing unusually warm weather or drought. It’s hard to confirm how many unprovoked attacks on humans have resulted in death but it seems uncommon. Usually, when a body turns up that appears to be eaten by piranhas the bites occurred after they died not before.
Piranhas are opportunistic fish that scavenge for food because it's safe whereas attacking a large animal is not. While piranhas are dangerous and swimming with them is not advisable, they are not the man-eaters that we expect.
Tigerfish have been called the piranha of Africa because of their toothy appearance and the rumors that continue to spread. There are several species of tigerfish with goliath tigerfish growing the largest topping out around six feet long and 100 pounds. With tough bodies that are made to survive the harshest environments and aggressive behavior, they are truly intimidating fish.
These fish look like killers but the reports of people being eaten by them are hard to confirm. People getting bit by tigerfish is not uncommon at all with fishermen in these areas often missing fingers and toes. These fierce fish should be handled with care and respect at all times but that’s not foolproof. Tigerfish are fast and feed on anything they can catch which is easy since they can split their prey in half with one bite.
While the legends of people being killed or eaten by tigerfish have not been substantiated, it’s possible. The goliath tigerfish has more than enough power, size, and teeth to rip someone to shreds but other than a few bites a year they don’t seem very interested in doing so.
All three of these fish are dangerous and tend to be aggressive but none of them actively hunt humans. These fierce fish are capable of doing damage to us but in nature, any injury could be fatal. These fish are cautious and only eat things that don’t pose a threat unless they are desperate. It’s very unlikely that we will be attacked or eaten by any of these fish but it's always a good idea to keep your distance and never get too comfortable.
Updated on December 6, 2022
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