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Spain’s ‘Piranha’ fish surge linked to climate change, scientists warn

Visitors to one of Spain’s most crowded beach destinations have been exiting the water with injured feet as a result of fish with growing appetites that enjoy nibbling on anything edible, including human skin.

In what Spanish media have headlined “Piranhas on the beach of Benidorm,” up to 15 bathers are being taken to hospital every day along the Costa Brava as part of a phenomenon being blamed on climate change.

The fish are not real piranhas, of course, but a variety of seabream, or what Spanish call “obladas,” which are unusually fearless around humans and easily recognized by a characteristic black spot on the tail.

About 15 to 25 centimeters long, these fish like to nibble on just about anything edible, including warts, moles, and damaged skin.

The problem is that their sharp teeth and painful pecks are also leaving the feet of swimmers at Benidorm beaches bleeding with small injuries, the newspaper La Opinión de Murcia reported in September after a busy tourist season.

Scientists say one reason for the fish’s increased appetite is the higher water temperature due to climate change.

The newspaper quoted Alfonso Ramos, a researcher at a regional department of marine sciences and applied biology, as saying that rising sea temperatures have accelerated the metabolism of the fish, which, therefore, also needs more food.

The Mediterranean Sea has been warming particularly quickly in recent years. For Benidorm, up to 27 degrees are still being measured, while in August, it was 30 degrees Celsius in some places.

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