The electric eel is an amazing fish that cannot only detect electric fields, like other fish, but it can also generate electric charges. The electric eel will discharge electricity whenever it feels threatened or angry, or to stun prey, and can generate up to 600V of electricity. Also, the electric eel is not actually an eel, but is actually a knifefish, and is more closely related to catfish than to other eels.
Electric eels live in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America, and prefer to live in the muddy bottoms of rivers and swamps, where it hunts for prey. However, the electric eel must rise to the surface every 10 to 15 minutes to breathe air, because its habitats are often deficient in oxygen. Electric eels prey on anything from fish, shrimps, and crabs, to small mammals. The electric eel stuns its prey by generating electricity. It creates electricity in its electric organ, and can generate two types of voltages: high and low. Electrocytes are electrically charged cells located in the electric organ, and are stacked so that ions can flow through, and because they are stacked, the electric potential difference increases. The electric eel often uses its “low” voltage to hunt and stun prey, and its “high” voltage as a self-defense mechanism.
The electric eel is not endangered at the moment, but may be in the near future due to habitat destruction. Its habitat is most likely being destroyed along with other parts of the Amazon rainforest and Amazon River. Processes such as deforestation and acid rain could be causing dirt to run off into the basins where electric eels live, or could be adding toxic chemicals that are harmful for electric eels.
Their ability to generate electricity is a fascinating aspect of the electric eels anatomy, and is the reason why I find them so fascinating. This adaptation is extremely beneficial, and is unique among the animal kingdom. Also, research on the electric eel’s electric organ and electrocytes could lead to technological advances in generators, or as batteries for small chips or implants.