22 Electric Eel Facts for Kids
Electric eels have always held a huge amount of fascination for humans. These creatures are found in the waters of South America. They really can generate a shock of up to 500 volts right through the water. This painful shock can be damaging to large animals including humans.
1. Death by electric eel is very rare but it can happen. Typically death will occur if there are multiple jolts that can happen if there is more than one eel in the area. Multiple jolts at once can cause breathing difficulty, heart attack and in some instances drowning even in very shallow water. The pain is said to be quite terrible.
2. They are long and cydrical. Their bodies can range from a dark gray to a light gray and some are yellow on the underside. They look more like a flattened fatter snake then they do like a fish.
3. The electric eels can grow up to 2.5 meters (6feet or more). They are well adapted for living in the water. They only need to surface about once every 10 minutes to grab some air. They can be rather large weighing in at up to 45 pounds. They do not have scales, they have skin.
4. It is no easy feat for the electric eel to create its own electricity. It depends on large organs that take up about eighty percent of its body. There are three organs that are responsible for creating electricity the Hunter organ and the Sach’s organs. The other twenty percent of its body is reserved for the vital organs it needs to sustain its life.
5. These specialized organs act as batteries. They hold electroplaques that are charged up and ready to jolt out of them when they are scared or when they want to stun their prey. The voltage is that similar of what can be found in most standard wall outlets. By reversing the polarity of the electroplaques in the organs they can send out a charge that lasts for 2 milliseconds which is enough to take anyone off their feet. The water makes an excellent conductor for this charge and amplifies it.
6. They are true predators and while they mainly dine on small fish and other water animals they have been known to grab a bird or two while the birds are in the water eating. They are not very picky when it comes to their food source. If they can catch it they will eat it.
7. Not only can they “shock” other animals in the water but their poor eyesight is given a boost by a small electrical charge that is omitted from their eyes that acts like radar to help them see. They also have very active ears. They have sensors all over their body that help them to hear which of course helps to make them excellent hunters.
8. They live in freshwater throughout much of the Amazon. They spend most of their days on the muddy bottoms of rivers and other bodies of water. There are huge populations of electric eels in the areas that they are native too.
9. In captivity the electric eel can live up to 35 years. In their natural habitat the life span is a little shorter at 30 years. One of the reasons that they are so prolific and survive so well is because of their ability to ward off predators with their “shocking” personalities.
10. Most of their natural predators would certainly prefer a different meal. They only have two natural predators the Caiman (a relative of the crocodile) and man. The Caiman when it is left with nothing else to eat will battle and eel but it is very rare occasion. They can be hunted by humans for their skin but it has not seemed to effect the population as the numbers that are reported are always encouraging that this natural wonder in not in any kind of endangered status.
11. Even though the electric eel is called an eel it is really closer to being a catfish. They are genetically more fish than they are anything else which actually makes their adaptations even more amazing. They do not have gills like fish. They are air breeders.
12. The electric eel is so unique that it was once given its one classification. Today it is the only species listed in its genus. They may be closely related to catfish and carp but they do not seem to mind eating their cousins.
13. Since they live on the bottom of the river and so do catfish there is a many unlucky catfish that has met their end thanks to a hungry electric eel.
14. The electric eel is a research favorite. Many prestigious universities have had research studies to learn from this amazing creature. Research has included everything from biology to cell replication. Universities from around the globe have looked to the electric eel for answers to conducting electricity through cells to its regenerative properties after it discharges a volt.
15. Electric eels are very unusual creatures in that the male creates the nest that the female lays her eggs in. He uses spit from his mouth to create a nest. The female comes a long and deposits up to 17,000 eggs at a time.
16. As the baby eels hatch they immediately start feeding, sometimes the first of the brood will eat the rest of the brood before they even have a chance to hatch which is why it is very likely that so many eggs are laid at once.
17. Electric eels are not very maternal. They actually have nothing at all to do with their young. They simply lay the eggs and the babies are on their own.
18. Electric eels are a throwback to prehistoric times. Scientists do not believe that they have changed much in the last 2 million years or so. Their adaptations are pretty amazing considering that they have not moved forward on the evolution scale.
19. Ultimately it comes down to what works for a species and the electric eels unique abilities have served the species well over the last 2 million years. Well enough that change was not necessary.
Catching an Eel
20. Most eels that are in captivity are in zoo’s or in aquariums that are professionally managed. It is not easy to trap an eel alive and great pains are taken to capture the ones that are in captivity. There are some collectors that keep eels as pets but they pay a very hefty price and frankly they are not the best pets.
21. Catching an eel takes time and a lot of patience. Basically the hunter has to wear the eel out. They have to allow the eel to discharge of the electricity that it has stored up. Sometimes this can take hours to accomplish.
22. Sometimes it seemingly just will not happen. The eel has to be trapped first than it has to be aggravated so to speak. It has to feel threatened to discharge the volt over and over again so that it exhausts it resources and once that happens it can be handled.
23. Until the eel is done with the shock phase of its fight no one can handle the eel.