Can you electrocute an electric eel?


We humans perceive our environment primarily through our eyes, nose, ears, and our sense of touch and taste. But nature has made various other senses available to living beings. Many fish also have a so-called electrical sense. Electrocytes, modified muscle cells, can generate electrical voltages. The electrical organs are just under the fish's skin.

If they are excited by special nerves, they discharge and generate voltages that create an electric field around the body of the fish. In most fish, this electrical voltage is rather low: in New World knife fish, the elephant-trunk fish named after its strange appearance or the Nile pike, which can generate a voltage of a few volts.

However, when many electrocytes are connected in series, the voltage can become so great that it is even dangerous to humans. The strongest electric fish, especially the South American electric eel, but also electric catfish and electric rays, are able to generate very high voltages. Your muscle cells are connected in series like a battery and the current surges are correspondingly high.

The discharges of the trembling catfish reach around 100 volts, the electric ray can even generate voltages of up to 200 volts at currents of up to 30 amps, which is roughly comparable to 230 volts from a standard socket in our country.

And the electric eel can even manage up to 600 volts. It has up to 6000 electrocytes, each of which emits only low impulses, but overall the electric eel, which is up to 2.50 meters long, can emit the strongest voltage of all electric fish.

With the help of these electrical surges, electric fish can stun, incapacitate or even kill prey or dangerous opponents. For example, if the electric ray discovers a prey fish on the ground, it approaches it and gives it an electric shock.

In the skin of the fish there are receptor organs with which they can orient themselves to the magnetic field lines of the earth and recognize prey and predators. Fish perceive the earth's magnetic field with its field lines very precisely through this electrical sense.

The electrical field enables them to orientate themselves and to communicate with their fellow species via electrical signals - which becomes more important because many electrofish are nocturnal, live in muddy waters and have no or stunted eyes.

Through these receptors they can perceive changes in the electrical field even in small areas of around 0.1 microvolt. In this way, fish get an exact spatial picture of their environment even in the dark. This also applies to sharks, but they can only receive electrical signals. They cannot send out signals themselves, but they can find prey using their electrical fields.