Amazing eel-ectricity

Published on January 5th, 2012
Amazing eel-ectricity

If an electric eel wanted a hot meal, it could generate enough electricity to power a microwave. R-eely impressive, isn’t it?! Especially if you consider that this amazing animal uses electricity in a well-known electrical conductor – water.

Huh?! So how come it doesn’t shock itself? Well, let’s start by checking out how an eel generates electricity in the first place. An electro-eel has internal electric organs, which contain electric cells stacked in rows called electro plaques. Each row produces only 1/7000 amps, and the shock that’s generated doesn’t last long at all. But don’t get too comfortable – when the eel uses all 140 rows at once, it can strike down up to eight people! Eish.

But how is it possible that two eels can electrocute the same prey without shocking each other? And what about mating, where the electricity released is the strongest shock of all. In fact, when two eels fight to the death, they use the same electric current they release when mating. So how do these creatures survive?

Scientists think it could be thanks a thick layer of fat, which behaves as an electrical insulator, protecting the eels from their own shocks and, to some extent, the shocks of others. Sounds like the perfect weapon to us, and it can also be pretty useful. Don’t believe us? Check out this video of an electric eel lighting up a Christmas tree…