Electric eels were already one of the more odd and scary animals around. The name says it all with their ability to send a certain amount of voltage into their prey for a little shock therapy. It sounds like something out of the pages of a comic book except they are very much real. And now, there’s a reason to worry about these fish (they aren’t actually eels) even more because scientists made a rather disturbing discovery. It seems that electric eels are hunting their prey in large groups now, coordinating attacks to provide maximum electrical damage. And it’s working with the eels taking out large groups of prey.
The discovery about the electric eel hunting tendencies came from Douglas Bastos, a biologist in Brazil. He observed a group of 100 eels apparently hunting together in the Amazonian sections of the country. Electric eels were long thought to be lone-wolf type of hunters, going out at night and attacking their prey while the latter slept. But this observation by Santos, and confirmed through other studies in the region, saw a very different strategy. The eels were actually traveling together in large groups, circling other groups of smaller fish and then sending coordinated voltage to their victims and knocking them out of the water.
Electric eels are unique creatures, basically the only ones of their kind and through their physiology can generate a current of electricity through their body. The coordination of electrolytes through their main organs allow them to send an electric shock when necessary. A single electric eel can generate a shock that can measure up to about an ampere of voltage or about 220 watts. They can grow up to six feet long and would be about the last thing you’d want to see if swimming in some unknown waters.
So you’re saying to yourself, well it’s one thing to have eels attack a group of tiny fish and send a little buzzer’s worth of electricity to kill them. I have nothing to worry about, I’m a fully grow adult. Think again. That voltage from a fully-grown electric eel has enough to knock out a human in certain instances, causing them to easily drown in even shallow water. And in some cases, the shock could even cause heart failure because of the electrical charge. Now imagine, 100 of these bad boys swimming around you and lighting you up like a Christmas tree. This would be a major issue for much larger prey if electric eels ever got their act together.
We’ve had some other disturbing new discoveries about animals, but rest easy, at least for now. Electric eels aren’t a problem for us Americans. For starters, they are mostly confined to areas of the Amazon in South America. And what’s better, this observation of the large group attacks was actually only seen in one specific lake in Brazil. So we are probably safe for now. But if you ever go for that once-in-a-lifetime trek through the Amazon and find yourself surrounded by a big group of electric eels, say your prayers, because you’re done for.