Stunning and stealthy –

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The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) lurks in the murky waters of the swamps and rivers of northern South America. With its highly sophisticated system of electrolocation, it is a stealthy predator, having the ability to navigate and hunt in conditions of low visibility. Using ‘electroreceptors’ to detect distortions in an electric field generated within its own body, it can locate a potential meal undetected. It then immobilizes its prey using a powerful electric shock, sizeable enough to stun a large mammal such as a horse, or even kill a man.1 Having a long cylindrical body it closely resembles what we commonly understand by eels (order Anguilliformes); however it belongs to a different fish order (Gymnotiformes).

Fish that can detect electric fields are called electroreceptive and those that can generate strong electric fields like these eels are called electrogenic.

How does the electric eel generate such high voltages?

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