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Electric Eel

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Electric eels can generate an electrical charge of up to 600 volts in order to stun prey and keep predators at bay.



About the Electric Eel

Despite their serpentine appearance, electric eels are not actually eels. Their scientific classification is closer to carp and catfish.

Electric Discharge

These famous freshwater predators get their name from the enormous electrical charge they can generate to stun prey and dissuade predators. Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 specialized cells called electrocytes that store power like tiny batteries. When threatened or attacking prey, these cells will discharge simultaneously, emitting a burst of at least 600 volts, five times the power of a standard U.S. wall socket.

Diet and Behavior

They live in the murky streams and ponds of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, feeding mainly on fish, but also amphibians and even birds and small mammals. As air-breathers, they must come to the surface frequently. They also have poor eyesight, but can emit a low-level charge, less than 10 volts, which they use like radar to navigate and locate prey.

Characteristics

Electric eels can reach huge proportions, exceeding 8 feet in length and 44 pounds in weight. They have long, cylindrical bodies and flattened heads and are generally dark green or grayish on top with yellowish coloring underneath.

Threats to Humans

Human deaths from electric eels are extremely rare. However, multiple shocks can cause respiratory or heart failure, and people have been known to drown in shallow water after a stunning jolt.


WATCH: Electric Eels Can Leap From the Water to Attack

Electric eels leaping from the water deliver a more powerful shock to an animal they perceive to be a threat than when they're underwater, according to research.