The electric eel is a creature that truly illuminates the hidden wonders of the natural world. Despite its name, this electrifying critter is not actually an eel, but a type of knifefish. It knows the murky waters of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America as its home.
The electric eel is most famous for its ability to generate electricity, a trait that sets it apart in the animal kingdom. It can produce powerful electric shocks of up to 860 volts, used for hunting and exploring muddy conditions. We can get an idea of just how effective this mechanism is in the video below – proof that these creatures can cause quite a painful zap!
Make sure to check out the following facts about these unique fish and how exactly their special bodies work.
How Are These Eels Electric?
The bizarre electric eel has surprising physiology that features three main electric organs. They are known as the main organ, Hunter’s organ, and Sachs’s organ, and span about 80% of its body. These organs are modified muscle and nerve tissues known as electrocytes, an uncommon bodily structure found in only a few animals throughout the world.
While current research isn’t quite sure how it works, electric eels normally have the ability to be unaffected by their own electric discharges. That’s fairly handy, especially because electricity underwater is a huge safety hazard. However, if their insulated bodies are damaged, this protection may not work any longer. Thankfully, due to their intense defenses, the electric eel has no known predators other than humans.
Do Electric Eels Breathe Underwater?
If being capable of delivering electric blasts to their opponents wasn’t enough, it might surprise you to learn there’s more to this odd fish than just its shocking abilities. The electric eel boasts further adaptations suited to its South American environment – for instance, it can breathe air through its mouth, a trait that allows it to survive in the oxygen-poor waters it usually inhabits.
They still have gills, though, for extracting oxygen from underwater when they can. The supply is normally low, however, which necessitates them to return to the surface every so often in order to breathe.
Wait for the Shocking Finale
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/stacey_newman
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