Prowling in the waters of the Amazon and Orinoco rivers, the electric eel has been found to do much more than kill or immobilize its prey via its targeted electric treatment; it also use its electric volts to remote-control hiding preys as well as use it as a radar system to navigate dark and murky waters.
Growing to a length of 6-8 feet or 1.8-2.5 meters, the serpentine body and flattened head of the electric eel contains electric organs that can discharge full blasts of electric volts that can paralyze any prey. The electric organs in the electric eel comes with specialized cells known as electrocytes, and these serve as organic batteries to discharge up to 600 volts of electric discharge.
The electric eel typically stuns its prey by discharging electric volts that paralyzes it, but it has also been found to periodically send off two high-voltage electric pulses that causes hiding preys within a certain circumference to involuntarily twitch and shudder – alerting the eel to the position of the hiding prey. Harmed with sensitive neurons, the eel can detect the exact location of the hiding prey when it twitches involuntary as a result of the discharged volts.
According to Kenneth Catania of the Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, “Apparently, eels invented the Taser long before humans. I have spent much of my career examining extreme animal adaptations and abilities. I have seen a lot of interesting stuff, but the eel’s abilities are astounding, perhaps the most amazing thing I have ever observed. After all, they can generate hundreds of volts – that by itself is incredible. But to use that ability to essentially reach into another animal’s nervous system and activate their muscles is a pretty good trick.”
When the eel has located its prey, it then delivers a higher voltage of electricity that immobilizes it, making it easy for capture. “Although they are not known to kill people, they are capable of incapacitating humans, horses and obviously fish during their electric discharge,” Catania said.
Beyond this, the electric eel also deploys its electric pulses to defend itself against other predators, and to intermittently enable it to navigate dark and murky water. This means that its ability to give off low-voltage electric pulses at occasional times enables it to use it as a sort of radar system. The study was published in the journal Science.