Electric Eels Shocking Creatures

The scientific name of the Electric Eel is Electrophorus Electricus.  Very aptly named, Electric Eels can emit up to 600 volts of electricity!

This particular eel is not truly an eel at all, but a type of fish with very few scales.  Their snakelike bodies and slightly flattened heads fool a lot of people into believing they are really eels.  But, being of the fish family, they have anal fins that run the entire length of their backs.  They do not have dorsal fins as most fish do, but use the anal fin to aid in movement by fluttering and giving it forward and backward motion. 

The Electrophorus Electricus lives in muddy waters mostly in South America.  To gain enough oxygen from its home waters it sometimes has to gulp air from the surface.  The use of a swim bladder helps it to absorb the oxygen. 

An Electric Eel can grow as large as 8 feet in length and can weigh as much as 45 pounds.  The vital internal organs only take up a small space in the front portion of the body.  The remaining space is comprised of organs that singularly produce electricity.

That electricity is also used to help it “see”, as it is nearly blind.  Using its pulsating electricity can help it navigate its surroundings.  It uses higher levels of voltage to defend itself against prey and to kill its own dinner, which is made of frogs and other amphibians, fish, and crustaceans.  (Juvenile Electric Eels eat smaller delicacies such as crabs and freshwater shrimp.)

Utilizing electricity is not the only strange behavior of the Electric Eel.  Their reproductive behavior is also unique.  The male makes a “saliva” nest where the female lays her eggs.  From that nest, sometimes over 15,000 young will hatch!  And, though this particular eel is quite prevalent in its own habitat areas, there are laws that prohibit human populations from keeping them as pets without a specialized permit.  This is, of course, not just for the Electric Eel’s protection, but to protect humans and local fish populations, also.

It has always been a source of wonder how the Electric Eel produces electricity.  According to studies, the Electric Eel has a nervous system that is specialized within an electric “organ”.  This organ acts as the stimulus to the nerves inside the eel’s body, similar to the workings of a battery pack in a cell phone or flashlight.  A more in-depth explanation of the production of electricity by the Electric Eel can be found in the article by Angel Caputi, a senior scientist at the Institute for Biological Research in Uruguay.

All in all, the Electric Eel is an extremely fascinating fish and one of nature’s truly magnificent species.