Electric eels are not just one of the most mysterious creatures on earth, they are also one of the most interesting. The idea of a single living thing being able to emit a current that can power 12 light bulbs is more than just amazing, it is alien. Unlike aliens, electric eels are very much real though, and whenever anything spooks them while having their nap underwater, they stun them with a powerful current big enough to kill a horse. There are lots of things that biologists don’t know about these eels and newer discoveries come up every day including some as recent as 2019 that discovered that there are three different species of these eels. Here are 10 more you will love to find out.
They Are Not Eels
Alright! They are electric eels only because their long snake-like bodies resemble that of other eels known to men but the people that named them should have probably looked deeper. Electric eels are actually fish that belong to the family of knife fish common in South America. They are more closely related to catfish though because of their small gills and ability to breathe air as well as their slender bodies capable of growing to over 8ft in length.
They Actually Come to The Surface to Breathe
Fish that can breathe are not unheard of and electric eels are one of them. They live in muddy contaminated waters which don’t have sufficient oxygen so despite having gills, they only rely on them for about 20% of their air. They come to the surface to breathe in air with their mouths. They can’t survive for long on land though.
They Are Cannibals
Alright, it would be difficult to swallow a live electric cable for any creature alive so adult eels can’t predate on each other but their young ones do. Eels lay about 17700 eggs in nests of saliva provided by the males who then stay to keep guard until the young ones hatch. Once they hatch, the little eels are on their own. They usually stun and eat small fish and other animals that their little current can kill. However, their ravenous appetite can’t be satisfied by the hard to catch fish so they hunt for nests containing unhatched eels and eat them.
80% Of Their Bodies Are Just Electrocytes
Electric eels have three main organs that work in unison to release the electric charges used to stun prey and scare predators. These organs are made up exclusively of cells called electrolytes which are able to generate the electrical charges. In electric eels, these three organs make up most of the eel’s body with the other vital organs concentrated to the remaining 20% of its body. Electric eels could therefore be seen simply as living electric cables.
They Pack A Big Punch
The size of the voltage released by an electric eel vary depending on the circumstances perceived by the individual but it can be as low as 6 volts and as high as 860 volts. A standard household socket-outlet releases 110 volts to 120 volts depending on the country and make. Being shocked by an electric eel is therefore way more stunning than stepping on a naked wire in your kitchen. However, the naked wire will hurt more because the current is more consistent than an electric eel’s current.
They Are Immune to Their Own Shock
Electric eels electrocute everything within their vicinity when they release their current and that includes their bodies. They are however insulated by a thick layer of skin and muscle that is immune to the shock. However, if they are injured on their skin, electric eels will be just as vulnerable to their shock as their victims.
They Can Leap From The Water
If you thought electric eels can only hurt you if you touch their waters, then you thought wrong, they are more than capable of getting you on the outside as well. When the eels sense a predator approaching from above, they leap from the water and latch onto it ensuring that their lower body is attached to the intruder so that they can feel the full strength of their shock.
The Electricity Also Acts As Their Eyes
Electric eels are blind; they can’t see much in the murky waters where they live so they evolved their electricity releasing organs into a form of radar system that they use to find their way around. They release tiny voltages when moving to read their surroundings and find prey. They don’t see people or animals when electrocuting them either. They only perceive their size by the amount of electricity the animal’s body seems to conduct so they pack their shock in accordance with the perceived size of the victim.
They Manipulate The Amount Of Shock They Deliver
Electric eels have been known to coil themselves around the limbs or heads of a person, a large predator or even a metal rod when they intrude in their waters. The idea behind coiling was discovered to be a mechanism to deliver a more painful stun by combining the power of the two poles of their bodies. The chin has the biggest punch and also acts as the positive end of their charge. However, when they put their entire lower body on an object, they can now direct their entire charge at the intruder causing immense pain.
They Are Edible
Despite their fearsome reputation, electric eels are not poisonous to eat. They are totally safe to munch on just like any other fish although they don’t have that much nutrition to offer. Electric eels are mostly made up of bone and muscle and most of their bodies only have electrocyte-filled organs so you won’t have much to munch on.