JUN 23, 2016 6:49 AM PDT

Electric eel attack reveals new behavior


In a paper published in 1807, Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt claimed to have observed South American electric eels exhibiting a behavior that has not been recorded since. Von Humboldt hired local fishermen to collect electric eels (Electrophorus electricus) for his research, which they did by a process he dubbed "fishing with horses." The fishermen led about 30 horses and mules into a pool known to be home to electric eels, which provoked the eels to attack by swimming to the surface and pressing themselves against the horses while discharging. This exhausted the eels, which could then be safely collected.

According to Kenneth Catania, a scientist at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, subsequent investigators have been skeptical of Von Humboldt's account, mostly because no similar eel behavior had been observed in the intervening 200-plus years - until now. But in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) today, Catania reports the results of a study in which he was able to provoke a defensive behavior by eels housed in an aquarium that largely supports Von Humboldt's story.

Catania writes in the PNAS paper that the behavior consists of the eels approaching a target and leaping out of the water to press their chins directly against the threat and deliver their "high-voltage volleys."

"This shocking behavior likely allows electric eels to defend themselves during the Amazonian dry season, when they may be found in small pools and in danger of predation," Catania writes.

You can see the behavior for yourself in this video, in which an eel attacks an imitation predator embedded with LEDs powered by the eel's electric attack:

Sources: taken and re-shared from Mongabay News
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
AUG 13, 2020
Plants & Animals
Study Confirms Nutrient Transport in Pregnant Male Seahorses
AUG 13, 2020
Study Confirms Nutrient Transport in Pregnant Male Seahorses
Seahorses are some of the most extraordinary fish in the ocean, and one of their most noteworthy features is male pregna ...
SEP 01, 2020
Plants & Animals
Warsaw Zoo Testing CBD to Manage Elephants' Stress
SEP 01, 2020
Warsaw Zoo Testing CBD to Manage Elephants' Stress
Humans use cannabidiol (CBD) for its array of health benefits, and household pets even benefit from CBD treatments in sp ...
OCT 07, 2020
Plants & Animals
Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia
OCT 07, 2020
Tasmanian Devils Return to Mainland Australia
For the first time in about 3,000 years, Tasmanian devils have returned to mainland Australia. According to a report fro ...
OCT 22, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
OCT 22, 2020
NASA Looks to Nuclear Fusion for Powering Deep Space Missions
Nuclear fusion is the frontier of energy research, and NASA has a plan to bring this state-of-the-art power source to th ...
NOV 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
NOV 07, 2020
Scientists Detect Origin of Fast Radio Burst in Milky Way
Scientists have identified a burst of cosmic radio waves- intense flashes of radio emission that last just a few millise ...
DEC 24, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
DEC 24, 2020
Novel Two-phased Particles are the Ultimate Authenticity Tag
Counterfeit goods producers are flooding the global market with low-quality, sometimes dangerous merchandise and ripping ...
Loading Comments...