A new species of electric eel produces the greatest discharge of the animal world: 860 volts

This is what may make an eel eléctricaEl bloody attack of electric eels to horses was real An international team of researchers has discovered that the rivers

A new species of electric eel produces the greatest discharge of the animal world: 860 volts
This is what may make an eel eléctricaEl bloody attack of electric eels to horses was real

An international team of researchers has discovered that the rivers of south america are home to at least three species of electric eels , not one as believed until now. In addition, one of them is really scary: you can drop shocks of up to 860 volts , the highest recorded up to now in the animal world. The jolt of a single copy would not kill a healthy human being, but an attack on the group itself could end the life of someone with a weak heart. The results, published in "Nature Communications", have been obtained after the analysis of 107 fish collected in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname in recent years.

scientists know from over 250 years ago of the existence of electric eels, which send electricity through the water to stun their prey. Widely distributed in swamps, streams and rivers throughout northern South America, seemed to belong to a single species: Electrophorus electricus. However, by linking the DNA, the morphology and the environmental data, and measure the unloaded voltage, the researchers have concluded that electric eels should be reclassified into three species, physically very similar, they evolved previously from an ancestor shared millions of years ago.

The new species have been named E. varii and E. voltai. The name of the last, whose discharges are the most powerful, pays tribute to the Italian physicist Alessandro Volta who invented the electric battery in 1799, basing his design, precisely, in the electric eel.

Defined by the voltajeE. voltai - L. Sousa

"we Use the voltage as a key criterion of differentiation. This had never been done before to identify a new species," says the principal investigator of the study, Naércio Menezes, professor and researcher of the Museum of Zoology of the University of São Paulo (MZ-USP), Brazil. During the field measurements using a voltmeter, the researchers recorded a discharge of 860 volts, the highest found in any animal, for a sample of E. voltai. The stronger shock registered previously it was 650 volts.

David Santana, of the National Museum of Natural History of Smithsonian Institute (Washington, USA), had to squeeze in many rivers to collect the electric eels for research purposes and was more of a scare. As explained by fortune, the shock of the eel is high-voltage but low-amperage (about 1 amp), so that is not necessarily dangerous to humans.

Encounter dangerous

by way of comparison, an electric shock from a power outlet can be 10 or 20 amps. If one has the bad luck to receive one, you may not be able to take your finger off, in which case it can be lethal. However, the electric eel as it emits a direct current but an alternating current (in pulses), and its charge is depleted after a strong shock. Its electric organ takes a while to recharge. Even so, a meeting with a group of these animals in the water can be quite dangerous. The shock will not kill a healthy person, but can be dangerous if you have a weak heart. can Also contribute to a fall or drowning.

"The shock stuns the victim. It is strong enough to help the fish to capture prey or ward off a predator", stated Santana. Interestingly, the research carried out has shown that electric eels are reported for the convene groups that can electrocute a potential threat . To the contrary of what had been stated previously in the scientific literature, these animals are not solitary. Frequently associated in groups of up to ten copies during adulthood.

Separation ecológicaDavid Santana - E. Kauano

According to the study, each species also has its own geographical distribution. The recognized Electrophorus electricus, I once thought that was widely distributed throughout the continent, in reality it seems to be limited to the highlands of the guiana shield, an ancient geological formation where the crystal clear waters tumble over rapids and falls. Electrophorus voltai live mainly further south, in the coat of arms of brazil, a mountainous region similar. In these regions, the water is less conductive of electricity due to the lower amount of dissolved salts, so that the animals need to produce shocks strong enough to capture their prey. The third species swim through the murky waters and slow the lowlands, where the dissolved salts increase the conductivity of the water, encouraging the spread of their electrical discharges, ranging between 151 volts and 572 volts.

Species for discover

"These fish grow up to two meters and a half long. They are really eye-catching. If you can discover a new fish as well after 250 years of scientific exploration, can you imagine what is left for you to discover in that region?, is question. In addition, the Amazon region is of great interest to other scientific fields, such as medicine and biotechnology, which, according to the scientist, it reinforces the need to protect it and keep it.

The research has other side. Other groups are exploring the possibility of using these results to analyze the enzymes produced by the electric organ of eels, and determine if they can be used in drugs for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease or as a model to develop batteries for prostheses, and sensors implanted in humans.

Updated Date: 12 September 2019, 09:00

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