Oct 29, 2015 11:04 AM EDT
Electric Eels Double Electric Charge With Simple Physics Trick
One of the most unique fish, electric eels are more dangerous than previously thought due to a simple mechanism that ups the voltage they exert.
Published in the journal Current Biology, the new study details how electric eels dole out drastically higher electricity without increasing their output.
"It's straight out of intro physics, it's as if the electric eels took a class in physics and said, 'hey, we've got a handle on this,'" Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University who authored the study, told The Washington Post. "That's what's beautiful about it."
Electric eels have special cells capable of sending out an electric charge called electrocytes, The Post noted. Without any help from clever tricks, the eel can shock victims with up to 600 volts, which is five times stronger than the average wall socket.
By biting its prey and wrapping its tail around the prey's body so it is perpendicular with its mouth, the eel doubles the voltage exerted.
"One of the eel's major problems is finding prey in the first place," Catania said in a press release. "Their environment in the Amazon is filled with muddy water and all kinds of vegetation that give fish a lot of places to hide. So, as the eel glides along, it emits a doublet or triplet. If there is a fish hiding nearby, then its body will spasm and the spasm will generate pressure waves in the water. Although the electric eels can't see very well, they are very good at detecting water movement. So this reveals the position of its next meal."
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