On the one hand, fish are inoffensive creatures, the majority not much to worry about unless they’re getting overcooked on the barbecue. Yet there are a few species that are more loathsome to our tastes. These are creatures straight out of nightmares – some more fangs than fish; others that look like they’ve barely swum out of the primeval sludge. But though we’d like to think we’re no relation to these demons of the deep, in the evolutionary scheme of things all us land vertebrates are derived from our fishy cousins.
Note: Sharks were omitted as we thought it unfair on the littler guys; the dorsal-finned ones deserve their own top ten. Otherwise, points were awarded for appearance, attitude, and aggression – with a partiality for nasty teeth and equally nasty names. Brace yourself.
Image: Laura Travels
1. Piranha Fish (up to 18 inches)
While the threat this little teeth-with-gills poses to humans has been rather blown up in films – including its own self-titled horror B movie – the Piranha has a set of jaws to make any dentist nod with nervous approval. Its rows of razor-sharp gnashers are tightly packed and interlock with each other, teeth perfectly designed for the rapid piercing and shearing of meat – for which the Piranha has a rapacious appetite, as if you needed to know. The Piranha is also aggressive to its own kind and can become cannibalistic if underfed.
Image: Lee Nachtigal
Dentist’s bad dream: Piranha Fish
Although the Piranha hunts in a lethal, highly organised fashion, in its defence it also eats vegetable matter such as seeds. Research also suggests its habit of forming into large groups is as much a defence against predators like caimans and river dolphins as it is a killing strategy.