card
121

electric eel

OLogy Series
animal
card
121

electric eel

OLogy Series
animal

The electric eel is long and narrow like an eel, but it is actually not an eel at all. In fact, electric eels are probably more closely related to catfishes. A large adult electric eel can deliver a charge of up to 650 volts -- to stun prey, keep away predators, and to help them navigate through muddy water.

Zap! Zap! Zap!
How does an electric eel deliver a shock five times greater than a household socket? The answer lies in its tail. All of its vital organs are located directly behind its head. The rest of its body, or tail, holds the electricity-producing organs. These organs are made of thousands of cells called electrocytes. Each electrocyte gives off a small charge of electricity when stimulated. The combined effect of all these electrocytes can be a pretty big shock -- especially to unsuspecting prey! It's even strong enough to knock a human unconscious!

To locate prey, electric eels rely on their:

sharp hearing

keen eyesight

electric charges

Are you right?

Correct!

Electric eels have tiny eyes and are almost blind, so they rely on electric charges to locate prey. They send out low voltage electric pulses (about 10 volts) that bounce off fish and other objects.

An electric eel swims by:

doing the backstroke

rippling a fin that runs along its tail

slithering its entire body like a snake

Are you right?

Correct!

An electric eel swims by rippling the anal fin that runs down the entire length of its tail.

electric eel
Scientific name: Electrophorus electricus
Size: up to 9 feet Habitat: muddy rivers of the Amazon Basin in South America
Diet: adults feed on other fish, frogs, and even small mammals
Characteristics: long, olive-brown, narrow fish with smooth, scaleless skin
Significance: uses electric charges to navigate in murky water and to stun prey or predators

Image credits: courtesy of Alan Hill, Fishbase.