|MadSci Network: Zoology|
Hello Tom One of the best Electric Eel sites is the one run by National Geographic Magazine:- http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/fish/electric-eel.html Here you can believe what is written. These huge animals have special cells by the thousand that generate electrical voltages – up to 600 volts (which is 5 times the volts of a USA power socket.). I think many people confuse volts with watts. 746 watts is the rate of doing work – and is actually one horsepower! A man, fully fit and trained might manage half a horsepower for a few minutes.. But no electric eel could manage 600 watts for over an hour. It is not a matter of “getting tired”, it is simply not having that much energy (work) to put out as electric energy or any other. It would have to “eat like a horse!” These animals live in fresh water – which is a poor conductor of electricity. So they can put out 600 volts without delivering much current (current times volts equals power, in watts). Also they have electric field (volts per inch) sensors for strength and direction. So they can find their way around and locate friends, foes and mates electrically. For close-range work only a few volts are necessary and this works to let them “see” all around themselves in the muddiest water! It works because ANYTHING placed in the water alters the strength and direction of the local electric field. To scare off a foe, or even kill them, the electricity must pass through a vital organ (say a heart or any such pumping device that is stimulated or triggered by the electrical signals of nerves). Thus an “eel fight” must be like a wrestling match; each struggling for body contact (as the bodies conduct well: the fresh water poorly). When close enough (to get the water-resistance low enough) an eel can produce perhaps one ampere (in a pulse lasting say one second) . This is plenty enough to stop the heart or gills or lungs of its victim (cardiac or respiratory failure and muscle paralysis). A good book on Electric Eels and other creatures is: Allen, Missy & Michael Peissel. Dangerous Water Creatures. New York: Chelsea House, 1992: 40. And of course the Guinness Book of Records:- Guinness Book of Records. New York: Bantam, 1992: 95. I hope some of this has interested you: write back if you have other questions John
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Zoology.