Don’t mess with an electric eel. These animals, found in the Amazon rain forest and elsewhere in South America, can emit 600 volts of electricity. That’s enough to cause a lot of pain in a person, and more than enough to stun the little fish they prey upon. But exactly how they have leveraged this shocking superpower remained a bit of a mystery, until now.
Electric eels, which are actually a type of fish (Electrophorus electricus), first use a quick double- or triple-pulse of electricity to cause hidden prey to twitch and reveal their location, says Kenneth Catania, a neurobiologist who studies animal sensory systems at Vanderbilt University.
“The eel reaches in to the nervous system, in a sense, of their prey…causing the muscles to contract,” Catania says. When stimulated by the eel’s electric field, neurons in prey animals fire, causing these contractions, he says. This is particularly helpful if fish or crustaceans are hiding in mud, for example, he adds.
Within a few milliseconds of finding the perturbed prey, the eel switches to stun mode, sending out a volley of electric pulses that temporarily paralyze the other animal. Within a few tenths of a second, it can then strike and swallow the prey.
“It shows how finely adapted eels are to attack prey,” Harold Zakon, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin who wasn’t involved in the study, told The New York Times.
This paralysis-by-muscle-contraction is also exactly how Tasers work, Catania says. But the eel can send out 400 pulses of electricity per second, while Tasers send out 19. “Of course, Tasers were engineered for safety,” e.g. not to kill people, “whereas the eel’s method is not,” he adds, laughing.
Catania, who started photographing eels for a book chapter, soon realized that nobody had studied the eel’s electric attack in detail before. One of the reasons this behavior hadn’t previously been studied in detail is because eels can shock, paralyze and swallow their prey so quickly that it’s often unnoticeable to the unaided human eye. So Catania set up a system with which he could film interactions between eels and their prey with a high-speed camera. The resulting data are published this week in the journal Science.
Zakon says the fact that Catania found something new about eels is impressive, since the fish have been studied for centuries. Catania “sees things that just go unnoticed,” he adds. Kind of like an eel.
Povos indígenas no estado de Rondônia
Aikanã, Ajuru, Amondawa, Arara, Arikapu, Ariken, Aruá, Cinta Larga, Gavião, Jabuti, Kanoê, Karipuna, Karitiana, Kaxarari, Koiaiá, Kujubim, Makuráp, Mekén, Mutum, Nambikwara, Pakaanova, Paumelenho, Sakurabiat, Suruí, Tupari, Uru Eu Wau Wau, Urubu, Urupá
A população da Terra indígena Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau é composta por vários subgrupos, como: Jupaú, Amondawa e Uru Pa In. Encontram-se distribuídos em 6 aldeias, nos limites da Terra Indígena, por questões de proteção e vigilância. Além destas etnias, há presença de índios isolados como os Parakuara e os Jurureís.
Os Jupaú traduzem sua autodenominação como "os que usam jenipapo". A denominação "Uru-eu-wau-wau" foi dada aos Jupaú pelos índios Oro-Uari.
Muitos foram os nomes atribuídos aos Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau. As denominações Bocas-Negras, Bocas-Pretas, Cautários, Sotérios, Cabeça-Vermelha, são encontradas na historiografia e estão relacionadas ao espaço geográfico ou a se…