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Kenneth Catania from Vanderbilt University took electric eel shocks

17 Septembre 2017

In a painful experiment, a United States researcher found out just how strong the jolts delivered by the fish are.

Catania explained that he had accidentally been shocked by electric eels a few times before so had some idea of what to expect.

"We've known these animals give off a huge amount of electricity, and everybody thought that was really fantastic, "said biologist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University, who experienced the shock". The researcher calculated that if another person were standing in water and was shocked in the chest by a full-sized eel, the impact would be 8.5 times stronger than one delivered by a taser. The experience, Catania wrote in the journal Current Biology, is quite painful.

"Results suggest that the main objective of the leaping attack is to strongly deter potential eel predators by briefly causing intense pain", states Catania. He used a relatively small, 15 inch electric eel for the experiment. For this, he developed an apparatus that can measure the strength of the electric current through a human arm that gets touched by an electric eel.

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It took ten tries until he was able to collect data sufficient for the study, he eventually discovered that the eel was delivering a jolt of 40 to 50 milliamperes through his arm. When shocked on objective he said "I was impressed".

"We don't know the main driver of the behavior, but they need to deter predators, and I can tell you it's really good at that. I can't imagine an animal that had received this [jolt] sticking around". Nearly their entire bodies are covered with electricity-generating organs, so-called electroplaques. What's the resistance of the water? Their jolts are more effective this way because no electrical discharge dissipates through the water.

A similar experiment was once conducted by Prussian geographer, naturalist, explorer - Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt a couple of hundred years ago.

Electric eels are considered one of the most remarkable predators in animal kingdom. The platypus catches its prey in murky water with its eyes closed by honing in on the electrical impulses emitted by their prey. A full-grown eel can deliver an electric charge of up to 600 volts. Some of them, like the Pacific electric ray, use this electricity to stun their prey. Researchers aren't sure what the hornet uses this electricity for, but believe that it could help the animals create enzymes that aid in their metabolism.

Kenneth Catania from Vanderbilt University took electric eel shocks