First thing’s first, the electric eel is not an eel but is actually a variety of knifefish (related to catfish) found in the muddy rainforest waters of South America.

Secondly, they’re badass.  The base model comes with two specialized organs called electrocytes which are lined up end to end like batteries.  When eels press the “activate” button, they release a paralyzing pulse of electricity – up to 600 Volts!  An old fashioned AA battery has about 1.5 Volts (depending on the type).  Tasers can deliver 1500V through a human body (way more if arcing through the air), but contact with humans is much longer and thus more potent.  The eel’s shock is very quick.

Scientists aren’t sure how electric eels don’t manage to shock themselves in the process.  Maybe it’s because their brains are far enough away from the eletrocytes, or maybe it’s because there’s a layer of fat that acts as an insulator.  Or maybe, they do shock themselves but don’t care anymore because they’re emotionally dead inside from electrocuting other animals all day.

Click the comic to see a larger version.

The Electric Eel - Nature's Taser

PS: We know that the featured image is not a real electric eel, but it was so cool we had to include it.

  • Mark_42

    Geneticists need to work on incorporating this ability into people so we can charge all the electronic crap we carry around these days.