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Electric Eels Can Make Leaping Attacks And Generate Powerful Electric Shocks

First Posted: Jun 08, 2016 06:00 AM EDT
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Electric eels can leap out of water and attack with powerful electric shocks, according to a new study.
(Photo : Cameron Spencer / Staff/Getty Images)

A new study reveals that electric eels can leap out of the water to strike their predators with the powerful electric punch. They pressed their chins against their aim to emit the high-voltage punch.

Science Daily reports that study was printed online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition this week. It was led by researchers from Vanderbilt University.

Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University and the Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences said that leaping eels electrify threats supporting von Humboldt's account of a battle with horses. He further said that the first time he read von Humboldt's tale, he thought it was completely bizarre. He asked why the eels attack the horses instead of swimming away. This refers to the legendary account the well-known 19th-century explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt narrated a dramatic battle between horses and electric eels that he witnesses on a trip to the Amazon.

Humboldt was then observing the native fishermen in Venezuela. The fishermen were collecting electric eels by fishing with horses. They drove the horses into a muddy pool with electric eels. The eels were provoked and repeatedly attacked the horses. Some of the horses drown. When the eels became exhausted, the men then captured a five-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) fish, according to National Geographic.

In the study, Catania keeps the eels in large tanks. At first, he used a net with metal rim and handle to transmit the eels from one place to another. Then, as he scooped up the bigger eels, the eel would stop trying to escape the net and attack by leaping out of the water then pressing its chin to the handle, which generates then a series of high-voltage pulses. Catania was wearing then rubber gloves so he did not get shocked.

He also discovered that the voltage and the amperage generated by the eels increased dramatically as the eel leaped higher on the target. He further explained that this allows the eels to produce shocks with a maximum amount of power to partially submerged land animals that invade their territory. He added that it also allows them to electrify a much larger portion of the invader's body.

The electric eel is also referred to as an electric fish. On the other hand, it is actually a knife fish. It has an elongated, cylindrical body, which grows to about 2m (6ft 7 in) in length. It weighs 20 kg (44 lb.). This makes the electric eel the largest species of the Gymnotiformes.

The electric eel has abdominal organs that generate electricity. These include the main organ, the Hunter's organ and the Sach's organ. They produce low voltage and high voltage. They are made of electrocytes.

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