Previously believed to be a species of fish with primitive and uncreative ways to hunt, researchers found that electric eels cleverly curl their bodies to shock prey.
- Electric eels are capable of shocking at 600 V
- That is 5 times stronger than a standard socket in the U.S.
- By curling, both ends of their bodies send shocks at the same time
- Researchers are still baffled how electric eels are immune to the electricity
Biologist Kenneth Catania, from the Vanderbilt University, has been studying eels and their effective hunting techniques. Before his research, many believed that the serpent-like fish had one tool at its disposal and used it in just one manner. It was deemed as highly basic for a creature with complex capabilities.
However, it turns out that the sleek eels are well aware of their weapons and find effective ways to use them. Their zapping abilities are powerful, and they manage to find subtle ways to enhance them when it’s most needed. An eel weighing around 44 pounds can shock their prey with a power of 600 Volts. That is five times stronger than the standard socket in the United States.
For small-sized fish, that would be enough. As it travels to the waters, the eel sends, taser-like shocks that temporarily paralyzes its prey. With that, it’s able to swiftly swoop down and swallow them whole. However, Catania found that the issue becomes a bit more complex when it regards bigger prey, such as the large catfish.
In fact, the eel ‘supercharges’ its abilities for a better effect. When encountering larger prey, the electric eel bites down and starts shocking. However, it also curls its tail, bringing the opposite end of its body on the same target for double the value. This sends stronger shockwaves through its prey.
It essentially results in temporary paralysis, which allows the fish to take advantage of its victim.
According to Catania, the electric eel is “activating the nervous system of the prey”, by manipulating it through shocks. It’s a simple mixture between physics and physiology. By bringing two electric poles together, it concentrates the electric field, which results in more powerful shocks.
By exerting the prey’s muscles through electricity, the eel essentially exhausts it. It causes the muscles to run very fast for a long period of time in a matter of moments. This exceptional technique deems the prey vulnerable. The electric eel effectively controls their body, leaving them helpless.
The curling maneuver is actually quite ingenious on its part. It’s particularly beneficial for younger, smaller electric eels, or when facing bigger prey. It stuns their targets, making them vulnerable, by using a much more complex use of its abilities than thought before. The cells that store electricity along its body are put to good use.
The electric eel has shown sophisticated ways of manipulating the electric field its capable of. However, it’s still a mystery how it’s so immune to the negative impact itself. Surrounded by water, the fish keeps its own brain, muscles, and nervous system intact, unaffected by electricity. It’s still a fascinating and enigmatic process that remains unknown.
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