The electric eel is a well-known animal. Its ability to shock has become so famous that in many ways nothing about the animal is shocking anymore. However, most people don’t realize how special and rare these animals are. If you are ever lucky enough to see one in the wild then you are part of a very small group of people. Read on to find out more facts about the electric eel.
The first thing to understand about the electric eel is that it is not an eel at all, it is a fish, a knife fish to be precise. It is an incredibly rare animal and can only be found in the muddy, shallow waters near the Amazon or Orinoco rivers of South America.
The shock of this fish is well known and is produced by three organs in the body. These organs alone make up four-fifths of its body. That means that only one-fifth of the body is dedicated to keeping it alive while the rest is dedicated to making electricity. If the eel senses prey is nearby or in danger, it will send an impulse from the brain causing ion channels to open. Sodium ions will flow through and produce an electric current. The eel can create a shock that will last around 2 milliseconds but can repeat it every other 2 milliseconds for a full hour without tiring. The organs have about 5,000 special cells that act like small batteries. When they discharge in one moment they can produce an incredibly strong shock. The Main organ and the Hunter’s organ are the ones that hold the batteries while the Sach’s organ is the one that is used for electrocution. The eel can produce a shock of up to 1 ampere and 860 watts.
The shock is similar in strength to a stun gun. If someone with a weak heart was shocked they could die but the most likely death is drowning in shallow water. If the eel stuns you, you could easily drown. Eels can not only produce electricity but can also sense electromagnetic fields around them.
While the electric eel is found in only a small number of places it is not endangered, its population in these locations is very stable. Outside of South America, you can find other electric fish but no electric eels. Electric catfish live in Africa close to the Nile River. Ancient Egyptians actually used the shock from the catfish to treat arthritis pain.
Electric eels are fascinating creatures. They are usually around 2 meters in length and can weigh about 20kgs. They are usually either purple, gray, blue, or black or on some occasions, white. They have incredible hearing and although they have gills they actually breathe air. This means that an electric eel needs to come to the surface of the water once every ten minutes. They are solitary creatures but a group, if it is together, is called a swarm. During mating season the males construct a nest for the females to lay their eggs in. They use their saliva to build it. They have a lifespan of around 15 years in the wild.
While you may have thought you knew enough about electric eels we hope you now know a lot more. Even the name electric eel is misleading as after all, they are not even an eel. The electric eel is a special creature with incredible power. If you are ever lucky enough to spot one make sure you stay well clear of the water and space above it. Eels are able to shock the water, and can even jump from the water to shock enemies in the air if they need to.