When you come across an electric eel at a zoo or aquarium, the fish looks somewhat boring. It usually just sits quietly, waiting for a meal. But the electric eel’s quiet demeanor hides a great danger. These fish have special organs that generate an electrical pulse. If a threat appears or a tasty snack is nearby — zap! The electric eel discharges a pulse of electricity, stunning whatever is nearby.
Biologists used to think there was only one species of electric eel, Electrophorus electricus. But now we know that there are actually three species of these fish: E. electricus, E. voltai and E. varii. E. voltai sets the record for the biggest zap, reaching 860 volts in tests by scientists.
Want to know more? We’ve got some stories to get you started:
The shocking electric eel! This creature’s powerful jolts not only act as a radar system but also can trick prey into revealing their location. (6/2/2016) Readability: 6.5
Leaping eels! Video shows how they attack with zaps: When a large predator threatens from above, an electric eel makes a shocking attack. (6/27/2016) Readability: 7
Newly discovered eel sets a jolting record for animal voltage: Scientists have found two new species, and one is quite a shocker. (11/15/2019) Readability: 7.4
Learn about the electric eel from Smithsonian’s National Zoo