Electric Eel

posted: 03/18/14
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Electric Eel
Alex Parkinson/Icon Films

Maximum Length:

Over 8 feet

Maximum Weight:

Up to 44 pounds

Shock and Awe:

The electric eel is one river monster that could quite literally give you a jolt if you come across it. That's because this eel is what's known as an electric fish, which simply means that it can produce and sense electric fields. The electric eel uses these fields to electrocute its prey and help it interact with other eels. It can grow to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) in length and discharge more than 600 volts of electricity. Getting shocked by an eel can cause respiratory paralysis and cardiac failure.


Electric eels swim around in the waters of Guatemala, Argentina and the Caribbean island of Trinidad. They are primarily aquatic creatures, although they can survive for several hours out of the water as long as their skin stays moist. Electric cells line up like small batteries and run down the length of these eels' bodies, giving their heads a positive charge and their tails a negative one. The longer the eel, the more powerful a shock it provides. Because they don't have teeth, electric eels swallow their meals — which include fish and small mammals for adults and invertebrates for younger eels — whole. This species has been known to catch its prey by forming a C shape around animals and rendering them unconscious with a strong electric pulse.

Night Riders:

Electric eels are nocturnal creatures that don't see very well. Their bodies compensate for their poor vision by producing pulses of low-voltage electricity that help them to maneuver in dark rivers and lakes. Basically, the eels release electric signals from their tails into the water, creating electric fields that are similar to magnetic fields. When a fish or other animal enters into an eel's electric field, the signals change, alerting the eel and letting it know the location, size, shape, distance, and even the gender and age of the intruder. Electric eels can tell if creatures moving in their electric fields are suitable mates or predators. This field also helps eels hunt for food hiding in murky waters.

Jeremy Wade's Tips for Catching an Electric Eel:

"In this particular situation, there was no point in using bait because there was a much quicker and easier way of getting it out of the water..."

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