All of us may or may not hear the term “Eeel fish” but most of us watched the amazing spider man 2 where the main antagonist Max Dillons gets an electric shot and falls into the tank of genetically engineered eel fish. When those fish attack him, he mutates into an electric generator and becomes electro. Though the story is fictional, there is certainly a fish named eel fish that can generate 600 volts of electricity which helps them to survive in the ocean by protecting themselves and keeping predators at the bay. Now I will explain the characteristics and mechanism of this bizarre animal.
The eel family includes fish that live in both freshwater and saltwater environments (euryhaline) which can be found in both tropical and temperate Pacific and Atlantic waters. These animals date back to prehistoric periods, and fossils dating back to almost 20 million years have been discovered. The elongated body of these fish, which measures between 30 and 80 inches, is their most distinguishing feature. Females are larger and have a mucus secretion covering their skin that makes them more slippery. Eels also have greenish-brown, practically black micros copic scales, and a yellow or white belly. Behind the skull, there are two tiny fins. (“True Eels – Freshwater Eels, Other Families Of Eels”, n.d.)
Figure: Mechanism of Eel electricity production
How they produce electricity
Now comes to the most interesting part that how it produces electricity. It’s operated similarly to batteries. To be specific, Eels have up to 6,000 of this electrocyte. These stacks of cells have a negative charge on the inside and a positive charge on the outside where each cell has the potential of .08 volts. However, when an eel is triggered by the sight of potential prey, these cells are opened up and an influx of sodium ions changes the polarity of the stacks, resulting in the formation of an electric current. When all the cells are stacked together, the charge can reach up to 600 volts in some species of fish. While that may sound like a lot, it is insufficient to kill a man, as the shocks are delivered in milliseconds. However, it is more than sufficient electricity to kill a small fish. However, the most fascinating aspect of electric eels’ special shocking ability is that it is not limited to prey killing. Their shocks feature a stealth mode, as well as a low voltage version that aids in hunting. These electric shocks are remarkably similar to those used by sonar bats. They can use them as emotional stimulation, sensing whether any fish are nearby. However, even their large shocks serve a dual purpose. According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, it is also used for hunting. According to the study’s lead author, “the eel can use its electric attack as a weapon and a sensory system simultaneously; it’s a kind of science-fiction-like ability.” They have a “remote control” mode once they have zeroed in on prey. They emit two closely spaced high-voltage discharges known as doublets that cause the prey’s body to contract unwillingly. This motion creates ripple effects in the water. It alerts the eel to the fact that it is alive and potential prey. It has been known to cause fish to “freeze.” It shocks their neurological system, rendering them motionless. While this method is ideal for catching smaller prey, it is not always sufficient for catching larger fish. As a result, an eel’s power must be increased. Eels boost their electric shock by wrapping into a circle, according to a recent study published in the journal Current Biology. This connects their positively charged head to their negatively charged tail area. The fish can double their shock by bringing the two points closer together generating more electricity to kill their prey (Catania, 2014)
Can we eat Eel?
Humans cannot consume raw or undercooked eel blood. Even the smallest amount of blood is lethal enough to cause death but as long as the eel is prepared properly and fully cooked, it is safe to consume. The eel is filleted and drained of its blood during the preparation process, and then the heat from cooking removes any toxic compounds in the flesh. In some parts of the world, people believe that eating eel will improve stamina, lower blood cholesterol, and raise dopamine levels, and hence consume it in order to improve their health. (Brian View all posts & posts, 2020)
1. Catania, K. (2014). The shocking predatory strike of the electric eel. Science, 346(6214), 1231-1234.
2. Characteristics of the EEL – should we be afraid of it? My Animals. Available at https://myanimals.com/animals/wild-animals-animals/fish-wild-animals-animals/characteristics-of-the-eel-should-we-be-afraid-of-it/
3. Brian View all posts & posts, V.all, 2020. Can you eat eel and how does it taste? Fishmasters.com. Available at: https://fishmasters.com/can-you-eat-eel/ [Accessed April 16, 2022]
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