Electric eels have been found to use a simple coiling technique to make their shocks much more powerful.
An electric eel is just about the last sea creature you would want to bump into. The predatory fish typically hunt by shocking their prey with high-voltage pulses emitted from glands in its body. Their prey is stunned as if it was zapped by a Taser, and the eel can swoop in for an easy meal.
According to a report from the Smithsonian, a recent study reveals how these electric eels can posture themselves to make the most of their high-voltage charge. Kenneth Catania, a biologist from Vanderbilt University studying animals with bizarre sensory systems, noticed that some of his electric eels were wrapping themselves around prey in the lab. Each time Catania observed this behavior, the eels’ head and tail were very close to each other, but not touching.
Catania had a hunch that it had something to do with electricity, so he measured the current of the eels’ shocks by inserting electrodes into dead fish and presenting them to the eels.
“I kind of joke that it was my eel chew toy,” Catania said. As he dropped the rigged fish into the tank, the eels all eventually circled around it and began shocking. Catania’s measurements revealed that the current produced when the eels were in the wrapped position was much stronger than it is when they are straightened out in a normal position.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, found that eels can double their current by curling their bodies around a fish so that the two poles in the organ that produces electricity are right next to each other. A prey fish caught in between these deadly electrodes doesn’t stand a chance.
The press release describing the study’s findings can be found here.