Natures superweapon : The electric eel

For the last 10 years Hollywood has been relentlessly churning out superhero films like there is no tomorrow – you would think people wearing Lycra and punching each other through walls would get old after a few years but apparently not.

Electric eels dont go to the cinema and give 0 fucks about the new X men film because they got here own superpower.

Electric eels are not actually eels, they belong to a group called knifefish (+ 10 gangster points) and new research has revealed a whole new chapter of awesomeness on these infamous creatures.

Electric eels generate electricity from three pairs of special organs located in their abdominal region which takes up four fifths of their body (which can grow to 2 meters long). These organs have evolved independently at least six times in fish and are made of electrocytes (electricity producing cells) which are stacked so each one adds to a potential difference and lined up so a current of ions can freely flow through them. They can produce two types of electric organ discharges: low voltage and high voltage which they use both to stun prey and defend themselves.

When the eel wants to zap something it sends a signal from its brain to open up the ion channels in their special organs allowing sodium to flow through, reversing the polarity momentarily. By causing a sudden difference in electric potential, it generates an electric current in a manner similar to a battery, in which stacked plates each produce an electric potential difference.

They have also been found to bend their body back on itself into a horseshoe shape which has the effect of doubling the power of the discharge – They can blast you with up to 860 volts as this poor bastard found out.

to give you some perspective the voltage of an average socket is 120 volts so 860 volts is no joke – there are reports of electric eels blasting horses off their feet.

Another way they can increase the power of their electric attack is to spectacularly leap out of the water and press their head against the unsuspecting predator and blast it for its trouble. This means that none of the electricity is wasted through the surrounding water – check the short clip below to see this in action.

kinda like getting a headbutt from a mad Glaswegian holding a power cable in each hand.



Dont mess.

Despite the high voltage the eel only delivers the discharge for a short period of time so its unlikely to be directly fatal to a fully grown adult but drowning as a result of the paralysis is a real possibility.

This electric zap power is very impressive but new research has revealed a far more devious ability of these eels.

Electric eels can “reach into the nervous system” of their prey and make them move in certain directions.

Yup thats right, they can essentially use electric signals to remote control other fish around them and make them reveal their hiding position or even swim towards them to get munched.

So these water gangsters can make their own lightning and hack into the nervous system of other animals to make them do things – basically two  complete superpowers in one animal.

I am going to leave you with a meme from the post “boaty mc boat face” internet craze of renaming of the worlds animals choice for the electric eel.