Stunning with Electricity
Perhaps the most well-known use of electricity in fish is attack by electric charge. The Electric Eel, the Electric Ray, and the Electric Catfish are able to create enough charge in their electric organs to produce a voltage capable of stunning or killing other animals. The positive pole occurs at the animal's head, and the negative pole in the tail region (Gerrow 2002). Explore pictures of these species on the images page.
The Electric Eel (Electrophorus electricus): The Electric Eel is capable of producing between somewhere around 600 V, thoguh sources vary (Bailey et al. 2002). Instead on a single electric organ, the Electric Eel actually has three. Sach's organ produces low EODs that are used to locate prey and navigate. The Main electric organ and the Hunter’s organ are responsible for producing and storing the eel's strong electric charge. The Electric Eel attacks its prey by discharging its signal into the water, or more effectively, by touching the animal as it fires. After discharging a shock, the eel must recharge for nearly one hour to regain its full electric potential (Gerrow 2002). Click here for a link to an Electric Eel video.
|Depiction of an Electric Eel showing the three electric organs: Sach's organ, Hunter's organ, and the Main organ. Image adapted from The Amazing Electric Eel.|
The Electric Catfish (Malapterurus electricus): The Electric Catfish attacks in the same way as the Electric Eel; discharge into the water or, preferably, through direct contact. However, the EODs of an Electric Catfish are not as powerful (averaging 350V) as those of the eel, though they are still adequate fro stunning or capturing other fish. Electric Catfish discharge an initial shock, which may be folowed by several smaller shocks (Gerrow 2002).
The Electric Ray (Torpedo torpedo): The Electric Ray Torpedo torpedo is the most well known of the electric rays, but it is actually only one of about 35 electric ray species. Electric Rays have an unusual method of prey capture due to their electric capabilities and unique shape anome electric fish. The Electric Ray uses its large wing-like fins to completely engulf its prey. After folding itself around the unfortunate animal, the ray discharges a strong electric pulse (up to 200 V) to kill it (Gerrow 2002).
This website was created as a part of a class project in the Animal Physiology Class at Davidson College.