Electric eels are fascinating marine creatures. A new study from the Vanderbilt University adds to the fascinating traits: electric eels curl to intensify voltage and paralyze large prey.
Kenneth Catania, researcher with the Vanderbilt University declares he is indeed fascinated by these creatures. Observing them while hunting and preying has led to the research paper recently published in the Current Biology journal.
Recording data on the behavior of electric eels and the way they use electric pulses created in the their body spanned three years. Studying electric eels both under laboratory conditions in their natural habitat, Catania understood that electric pulses aren’t only the creatures’ tool to locate prey.
By curling, and forming a tight grip around larger prey, electric eels will also paralyze it.
These marine creatures have an in-built electric pulse generator. Acting as batteries would, their serpentine-resembling bodies are capable of shocking small prey into paralysis with just one touch.
One zapp is sufficient to check if the prey is alive. By sending electric pulses to the nervous system, the prey will be shaken from its camouflage state with an involuntary twitch. Sufficient for electric eels to apply one more zap, paralysing prey and attacking it before it has the opportunity to run to safety.
With smaller prey, that is sufficient. However, with larger prey or for younger electric eels, something different happens. Electric eels curl to intensify voltage and paralyze large prey. In the curled position, electric eels will bite their tails, allowing the opposite poles of their battery-like organ to create really intense electric pulses.
“Each of these pulses the eel gives off is activating the nervous system of the prey. The eel essentially has remote control over the prey’s muscles and runs them to exhaustion, leaving the prey temporarily helpless”,
Researchers found that in this position, electric eels will zapp their prey with 600-voltage power. North American power outlets provide 120 volts. These electric currents, intensified by the curled position paralyze the prey regardless of its size. If it’s sufficiently small to fit in the electric eel’s grip, it’s good enough to snack on.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia