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New ‘evil eye’ piranha named after Tolkien villain

A new vegetarian piranha-like species discovered by scientists in the Brazilian Amazon has been named after JRR Tolkien’s ultimate villain, Sauron.

The British Natural History Museum said that scientists have named the creature the “Myloplus sauron”, because its round body and distinctive orange and black markings closely resemble the infamous evil eye of the character.

The new species is one of two recently named by scientists as part of an effort to better understand fish biodiversity in the Amazon River. Unlike most piranhas who have razor sharp teeth, it has human-like teeth to suit its plant-based diet.

While closely related to piranhas, it is better known as a “pacu”, which is the common name for this vegetarian relative.

Piranhas like these have razor sharp teeth. The pacu’s teeth are flat

The study, published in the journal Neotropical Ichthyology, sought to shed light on Amazonian piranhas and their relatives. They are renowned for being difficult to tell apart, as they change appearance throughout their lifetime.

Rupert Collins, lead author and senior curator in charge of fish at the London museum, describe how the new species was named.

“As soon as my colleagues suggested the name for this fish, we knew it was perfect for it,” he said.

“It looks just like the Eye of Sauron, especially with the red fins and orange patches on its body.”

Myloplus sauron are found only in the Xingu River Basin, a Brazilian tributary of the Amazon containing more than 600 fish species, including more than 70 found nowhere else in the world.

More than two fifths of the fish which live in the Amazon River are thought to remain unknown to science.

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