Date
13 December 2017
Electric eels have more powers than previously thought, a new study shows. Credit: Reuters
Electric eels have more powers than previously thought, a new study shows. Credit: Reuters

How electric eels ‘Taser’ their prey

Electric eels have for long been a source of fear as well as a subject of curiosity, as the creatures stand apart from the other fish species due to their unique powers. 

The slippery predators, which mostly inhabit fresh waters of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins in South America, hunt their prey — mostly other fish — by generating powerful electric shocks and stunning the victims.

Now, it appears that the eels’ powers extend beyond merely dazing their targets.  

A new study shows that the creatures can also use their electric organs to remotely control the fish they hunt.

In a Taser-like jolt, an eel can affect the nervous system of a nearby creature — say a fish or a frog — and make the muscles of their prey twitch, according to a report published in the journal Science.

This makes the prey easier to capture either by immobilizing it or making it “jump” to show where it’s hiding.

The study, conducted by biologist Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, showed that eels’ electric pulses directly activated the nerves that controlled their prey’s muscles.

“Apparently, eels invented the Taser long before humans,” Catania remarked, according to a Reuters report.

“I have spent much of my career examining extreme animal adaptations and abilities. I have seen a lot of interesting stuff, but the eel’s abilities are astounding, perhaps the most amazing thing I have ever observed,” the biologist said.

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