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Electric Eels ‘Tase’ Their Prey

A study that was published on Thursday, in the Journal Science, announced new observations on the way electric eels attack their prey.The electric eel has been shocking its victims with charges of electricity since it first adapted the ability, countless eons ago. In the late 1700s humanity began to pondered this perplexing phenomenon.

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This indigenous aquatic predator of South America,  is known to project an electrically charged blot at its prey. A recent study has found that not only do these slimy predators use their powers to stun their meal, but also, to make them move uncontrollably, alerting the eel to their location.

The author of this study is Kennith Catania,  from Nashville, Tennessee, and a biologist at the Vanderbelt University.

These creepy looking creature, that is actually a fish, are now believed to hunt by releasing several electric pulses. The first pulse is projected to scan the vicinity. Then, once it senses a possible meal, it deploys the first of two successive charges, each more powerful than the last. The eel, who is highly sensitive to underwater movement, will shock its target with a mild jolt of electricity, causing it to spasm. The eel detects the motion, due to its sensitivity and then release the second electric blast that incapacitates its prey. The entire duration of this attack lasts approximately 2 to 3 milliseconds.

Catania, discovered this tactic while observing electric eels in a fish tank. He had been capturing the animals behavior on a high-speed camera, to obtain a closer look at their rapid and fluid motions. As he watched the slow-motion replay of the animals actions, he noticed that the creatures, not only were extremely dexterous and nimble, but were able to capture its prey in a fraction of a second.

Catania also theorized, that the electric blast emitted by the eel, did not actually attack the muscle tissue of its target, but would attack specific neurons. To prove his notion, the biologist injected samples of the eels soon to be food with curare, a substance that inhibits the nervous system. He noted that the fish who was administered the curare, did not have muscle contractions after being shocked by the eels, verifying his theory that the attacks incapacitated the target’s nervous system.  This attack is very similar to a jolt from a taser gun.

The electric eel, along with many other species of marine life that share its distinct ability, have inspired humanity for thousands of years. The Italian physicist, Alessandro Volta, was so captivated by a similar bio-elcectric aquatic predator, the electric sting ray,  it  inspired him to create a device that mimicked the electricity containing capabilities of the animals muscles. Volta’s device would later be further developed into the modern battery.


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