The scientific name of the electric eel is Electrophorus electricus. Although they are called eels, they are not actually related to the eels, but have an appearance similar to them. Electric eels are related to carp and catfish. They are known for the powerful electric charges they generate, both for hunting as well as in self-defense. The electric charge is produced in a pair of organs located in the abdomen of the eel. The organs are so big in size that they occupy as much as 80% of the abdominal space and leave just about 20% space for other vital organs.
Interesting Facts about Electric Eels
Electric eels, like true eels, have a serpentine appearance. They are found in freshwater, and get their name from the electric charge they generate.
They are commonly found in the South American region in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, including the Guianas. They prefer to stay in murky streams and ponds, but in calm waters. They frequent floodplains, swamps, creeks and coastal plans.
Their skin is thick and slimy. They are known to grow as long as 8 feet in length. They weigh around 45 pounds. It is easy to spot an electric eel, as they have long, cylindrical bodies, but flattened heads. They normally have a dark green or grayish dorsal side, but are yellowish underneath. Electric eels have poor eyesight and are nocturnal in nature.
Electric eels are carnivorous. They feed mainly on fish, amphibians, small birds and even small mammals. Young eels feed on invertebrates like shrimp. Adults may feed on crustaceans as well.
What sets these animals apart from other animals are their electricity-generating organs. They have three pairs of electric organs. These organs are made of electroplates, and are placed in rows. The three plates are connected with one another, due to which even a small electrical discharge increases manifold and the charge is summed up. When the charge sums up, it becomes strong enough to kill small animals. The electric charge is also used as a signal to communicate with one another. It is seen that a dominating male emits loudest, noisiest and frequent signals, while female electric eels emit short and lasting signals.
In addition to the electric organs, there is another peculiar characteristic of the electric eels. They are air breathers. They have a complicated breathing mechanism, due to which they have to come to the water surface after regular intervals to breathe.
Electric eels are known to have an unusual breeding behavior. When it is the dry season, male electric eels make a nest using their saliva. The females lay eggs in these nests. You will be astonished to know that in one laying, as many as 17000 electric eels are hatched. It is normally seen that the first-born electric eels eat the eggs from the batches of eggs laid after them.
Humans should keep a distance from electric eels, as they can give repeated shocks, which can cause respiratory distress and/or heart failure. Likewise, it is recommended that they not be kept as pets at home.