Shocking Find: Electric Eels Can Leap Out of Water to Attack
A new study lends credence to a 19th-century naturalist’s tale that many thought impossible.
In an unusual discovery, electric eels leap from the water to attack predators with a high-voltage punch, a new study says.
In recent experiments, a scientist found that the South American fish go after large, moving, and partially submerged objects, pressing their chins against the target to discharge shocks. (Also see "The Electric Eel’s Superpower Just Got Even Cooler.")
The finding lends support to a centuries-old account of eel fishing by the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt.
In 1800, Humboldt observed native fishermen in Venezuela collecting electric eels by "fishing with horses." The men herded horses into a muddy pool containing electric eels, provoking the eels to repeatedly attack. After the eels had exhausted themselves—and caused a few horses to drown—the natives safely captured the five-foot-long (1.5-meter-long) fish.
This famous story has been repeated and illustrated numerous times over the years, but many