Diving into the electrifying nature of the electric eel.
Musa Sattar, London, UK, – Deputy Science Editor
The Review of Religions’ new mini-series ‘Exploring the Flawlessness of Nature’ delves into the marvels of the natural world, one subject at a time. In this edition we dive into the world of the electric eel whilst taking a look at the unique abilities of this truly powerful creature.
Imagine if you could transform your own body into a battery pack with the power to assist you in ways beyond your imagination. Wouldn’t that be incredibly cool?
Well, nature never ceases to amaze us with its fascinating creatures, as evidenced by the remarkable electric fishes within the knifefish family. Among these, electric eels stand out as the most powerful discovered to date.
Electric eels are one of the most marvellous creatures in the animal kingdom. These freshwater fish have a unique ability to generate electrical impulses that can be used to navigate, communicate, and even defend themselves against predators.
Intriguingly, what makes electric eels truly remarkable is the sheer power of their electric shocks. While the shocks themselves are not lethal to humans, they can be strong enough to stun prey or deter predators. In fact, the electric eel is capable of generating shocks of up to 860 volts, making it one of the most electrically powerful animals on the planet.
Electric eels possess the ability to grow to immense proportions, with some reaching over 8 feet in length and weighing more than 44 pounds. They have long, cylindrical bodies and flattened heads, and their skin typically displays a dark green or greyish hue on top, contrasting with a yellowish colour on their underside.
The entire body of electric eels is covered in specialised cells called electrocytes, arranged in a series of electric organs. When activated, these cells produce an electrical current that flows through the eel’s body and out into the surrounding water. Using its electrical abilities, this creature can detect concealed prey by stimulating their movements, and can also immobilise prey that are already in motion.
Electric eels communicate via low electric organ discharges that are produced in pulses, with shorter durations than the time intervals between them. Both the frequency and strength of these discharges vary between male and female individuals. These have the ability to employ electricity in ways that far surpass human inventions. As Kenneth C. Catania, professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, stated that the electric eels’ remarkable use of electricity serves as a poignant reminder that human inventions simply cannot hold a candle to the awe-inspiring wonders of the natural world.
Now, take a moment to contemplate the extraordinary phenomena of nature. Could the existence of such wonders be mere chance?