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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Did You Know? Incredible Electric Eel Facts

Interesting and fun electric eel facts are sure to entertain you

The eel electric, with the scientific name Electrophorus electricus (Electrophorus being the genus), is one of the very few creatures in the oceans that uses electricity as its weapon. Though referred to as an eel, the electric eel Electrophorus electricus is actually a knifefish, but due to its physical resemblance to eels, it is called an eel. It is primarily found in South American waters.

Electric eels have 'electric' organs that have specialized cells called electrocytes. These cells can generate high and low voltage electricity, which is used for stunning prey and navigation, respectively. Electric eels have three primary electric organs: the main organ, Hunter's organ, and Sachs organ. We will discuss each of these vital organs in greater detail later in the article.

Electric eels undergo major development between their birth and adulthood. The electric eel is unique among their order Gymnotiformes for possessing large electric organs. They are capable of producing lethal electric discharges with the electric eel shock voltage ranging from 1 volt to a massive 850 volts. Though their high voltage electricity is dangerous, they are still vulnerable to predators such as piranhas, American crocodiles, and caimans (alligators).

If you are enjoying this article, don't forget to check our other interesting animal articles like piranha fish and siamese fighting fish.

Electric Eel Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an electric eel?

Electric eel, or more scientifically known as Electrophorus electricus, is a fish often spotted in the waters of South America. While it might be classified as an eel, it is not actually an eel. The electric eel anatomy is closer to catfish and knifefish rather than eels. Electric eels are unique for being one of the few creatures which can naturally generate electricity. With the help of their main organs, Hunter’s organs and Sachs organs, they can paralyze their predators and prey and ensure their survival.

What class of animal does an electric eel belong to?

The electric eel is a fish that belongs to the Animalia kingdom and the Gymnotidae family, with its class being Actinopterygii. Similar to other eels, they belong to the Gymnotiformes order.

How many electric eels are there in the world?

Currently, there is no clear-cut data that states the exact population of electric eels. However, it is known that they are widely distributed in the South American region, especially in the Amazon and Orinoco River area.

Where does an electric eel live?

Electric eels are mainly inhabitants of rivers. First spotted in the northern highlands, it was then discovered that they were different from their original classification as Gymnotus electricus. Since that point, their species have been found in the rivers of Amazon and Orinoco.

What is an electric eel's habitat?

Electric eels' habitats tend to be in freshwater bodies. They will make their home at the muddy bottoms of stagnant or calm waters and spend most of the time hunting their prey.

Who do electric eels live with?

Electric eels are primarily divided into three sub-categories: Electrophorus electricus (the species that is being dealt with in this article), Electrophorus varii (Vari's electric eel), and Electrophorus voltai (Volta's electric eel). All three of these species belong to the same genus named Electrophorus.

Most eels are solitary beings and hunt by themselves. Although, a group of Electrophorus voltai has been observed to hunt in a group. But, researchers determined that such occurrences are rare and might have taken place only because there was sufficient food to support a group of electric eels. On a side note, a group of electric eels is called a swarm.

How long does an electric eel live?

The average lifespan of the electric eel, also known as Electrophorus electricus, is roughly 15 years when living in the wild. When living in captivity under lab conditions, it was sent that the male electric eels had a lifespan that spanned 10-15 years. On the other hand, also under field observation, female electric eels had a life cycle ranging from 12-22 years. To summarise, electric eels are known to survive 15 years on average in the wild while they can live up to 12 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

Till this point, there hasn't been sufficient data recording the exact process of reproduction for electric eels. Though, researchers do have theories in mind that the eggs might be laid in one go or laid in several batches while mating.

As for how electric eels find their mates, it is rather simple. Electric eels communicate using their electric current and have the power to figure out the gender of nearby eels and their compatibility. Keeping in mind that every electric eel has its own unique electrical wave, this communication is vital to finding a compatible mating partner. Now, we will move on to the topic of how mating is done.

During the dry seasons, male electric eels create a nest from their saliva and then female electric eels lay their eggs in those nests. On average, the female electric eels can lay a whopping 17,000 eggs! After the eggs hatch and give birth to larvae, the males keep a strict watch over them. This is especially important since the newborn might otherwise be eaten by other bigger mammals such as piranhas or be dispersed by flooding during the rainy season. After being born, the elvers, baby electric eels, feed on small invertebrates as well the eggs that didn't hatch for nutrition.

Fun fact: they even steal eggs that haven't hatched from nearby electric eels' nests, another reason male electric eels guard their nests.

What is their conservation status?

It has been determined that electric eels, also known as Electrophorus electricus, are of least concern conservation status. While their exact numbers are not known, it has been found that their current population is stable and relatively abundant in the South American region.

Electric Eel Fun Facts

What do electric eels look like?

The electric eel has a slender body and a flat head, similar to a snake. It has thick and scaleless skin that is generally brown or dark colored. Similar to other eels, their body lacks pelvic and dorsal fins that are common in fishes and is used for stabilization. Instead, the electric eel uses its long anal fin to navigate the environment in search of prey. Adult electric eels have lengths between 6-8 feet (2-2.5 meters).

The electric eel might appear harmless but they have a shocking ability.

How cute are they?

The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) will traditionally not be considered cute. It does have a soft and gentle exterior, which makes it look squishy, but it is far too dangerous for anyone daring to approach it primarily due to its high electrical discharges.

How do they communicate?

Electric eels communicate using low electric organ discharges. They generate pulses of low voltage electricity that are sensed by other eels and facilitate communication. This communication is more common during the breeding season when electric eels are on the search for potential mates during the dry season.

How big is an electric eel?

Electric eels measure between 6-8 feet in length (2-2.5 meters). It is roughly half the size of an adult king cobra. Males of this species grow longer than females by approximately 14 inches.

How fast can an electric eel swim?

The American electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) can reach a top speed of 3.9 km/h (2.4 mph) in water.

How much does an electric eel weigh?

The typical electric eel can weigh roughly 20 kgs (44 lb), though there are electric eels that have been known to exceed this weight.

What are their male and female names of the species?

There is no information as to whether different sexes of the electric eel species (Electrophorus electricus) have different names.

What would you call a baby electric eel?

A baby electric eel is called an elver. Interestingly, adult electric eels look very different from elvers. Hence, it was believed that the baby electric eels were a different species altogether.

What do they eat?

Adult electric eels are carnivores. They primarily feed on fish and small vertebrates, such as amphibians, reptiles and mammals.

Are they eaten by humans?

Electric eels are eaten by humans in parts of the world and are considered a delicacy in Japan. However, eel blood is toxic to humans and must be thoroughly cooked to neutralize the toxins.

Would they make a good pet?

Electric eels wouldn't be considered a good pet. They are very difficult to catch, with the only feasible option being to exhaust its electric reserves and then capturing it. They are also very difficult to keep in captivity and their fatal potential should keep everyone wary.

Did you know...

Electric eels are actually air breathers as they hunt in water bodies that are poorly oxygenated. They have been spotted leaping out of the water to stun prey on the surface of the water. Electric eels hunt by first sending electrical pulses, from their organs, of low volts both in and out of the water, which will cause prey in the vicinity to move, and shocking the electric eel's predators.

Then it locates the prey by using the hair that covers its skin to detect changes in water pressure. Once it's close to the prey, it sends pulses containing high volts, which originate from the Hunter's organ and the main organ. These pulses are enough to stun prey and incapacitate them, allowing the electric eel to devour them easily.

What colors can electric ells be?

Electric eels are dark brown on the back and yellow on the belly. Females may have a darker color on their bellies.

How many lightbulbs could an electric eel light?

A typical electric eel has enough electrical charge to power 12 40W light bulbs, but they cannot sustain it for very long. Electric eels specialize in pulses of electricity, rather than continuous generation of electric current.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including eel, or moray eel.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our sea eel coloring pages.

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