Electric Eel Facts
- Perhaps the most notable fact about the amazing Electric Eel remains the simple fact that it does not actually represent a species of eel. That’s because, the remarkable creature actually constitutes a particular variety of knife fish. Furthermore, this truly amazing creation of Nature also remains the only species in its genus. Presently, few specimens exist in captivity, since it remains difficult to catch.
- Meanwhile, its highly distinctive name does not completely mislead us in our image of such a creature. That holds true due to the fact that it evolved a most shocking ability. Its astounding evolutionary path provided the fascinating fish with the ability to generate, and to discharge at will, electric currents. Quite surprisingly, and also extremely effectively, these can measure as much as 600 volts.
- For the moment, the population of the Electric Eel appears to be both sufficient and stable, within its native habitat. Therefore, the IUCN presently lists it as Least Concern on its Red List of Threatened Species. However, the very nature and location of that endemic range renders it especially vulnerable to several threats. Further, these factors mainly consist of the dual dangers of habitat loss and climate change.
Electric Eel Physical Description
First of all, the amazing Electric Eel possesses a highly elongated shape. In fact, mature individuals average a body length of roughly 6.5 ft (2 m). In addition, fully grown individuals also attain an average weight of about 44 lb (20 kg). Exceptional specimens even reach 8 ft (2.4 m) in length. However, the species exhibits sexual dimorphism. In its case, the males attain a significantly greater length than the females of the species.
In addition, its coloring typically presents a grayish brown on top, and orange or yellow on the underside. Further differentiating the genders, females generally display a darker color on the abdomen. Unlike most fish, it does not possess scales. It also evolved as an entirely air-breathing fish. Therefore, it must return to the surface every 10-12 minutes to breathe.
Finally, the three electricity-generating organs of its elongated body occupy about 80% of the body length. Also, the Electric Eel remains fully capable of varying the intensity of the electric discharge. These organs are comprised primarily of specialized electrolytes. In fact, its biological processes generate its electric current in the same manner as a man-made battery.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Gymnotiformes
- Family: Gymnotidae
- Genus: Electrophoros
- Species: E. electricus
Electric Eel Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The truly incredible Electric Eel evolved as native to an extremely highly restricted habitat range. This tiny area consists solely of the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco Basin, in South America. It also currently remains unknown if the animal ever possessed a more extensive range. For the moment, no evidence exists to suggest that it ever lived anywhere else.
Furthermore, even in this region, the fabulous fish inhabits only very specific types of habitats. These limited areas of habitation mainly consist of various swamps, floodplains, small rivers and creeks, and coastal plains. Further, mature individuals generally prefer to live in areas with an abundance of stagnant water or muddy bottoms.
Also, within its limited territorial range, it ranks as a true apex predator. The very young feed mainly on small invertebrates, such as crabs and shrimp. However, the much larger adults mainly feed on such prey as fish, and even small mammals that stray too close to the water. But, these will also consume invertebrates opportunistically.
The Electric Eel remains well-known among researchers for its unusual mating practices. In the mating season, the male builds a nest, made from its own saliva. The female then lays as many as 3,000 eggs into this nest. Rather notoriously, the young that hatch first frequently eat the other eggs in the nest. Adults remain highly aggressive, especially during breeding season.