Electric Eels (Electrophorus electricus) are large gymnotiform fish that may exceed 2 m in length and live in northern South America in the Amazon and Orinoco River basins and other areas in northern Brazil (the species can be found in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela) (Eschmeyer 2012). These fish are famous for their ability to emit powerful electrical discharges, which are used both in predation and defense, of more than 500 volts (weaker electric fields are generated to gather information about the fish's surroundings). Depending on circumstances, the shock generated is potentially strong enough to pose a serious danger even to a large animal such as a human. Although musing about the electrical potential of this fish may simply alarm some people, others have been inspired to think about harnessing this power for fun, education, or more, as seen in this video about Electric Eel power in a Japanese Christmas display (which has been extended to include a human visitor-powered Santa Claus).
Electric Eels are mouth-breathers and will drown if denied access to air. The oral cavity is highly vascularized and folded to increase surface area, facilitating gas exchange. Air is taken in every few seconds to every few minutes. In addition to gas exchange in the oral cavity, carbon dioxide apparently escapes through the relatively permeable skin.
- Eschmeyer, W. N. (ed). Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences (http://research.calacademy.org/research/ichthyology/catalog/fishcatmain.asp). Electronic version accessed 21 September 2012.
- Schmidt-Nielsen, K. 1997 [2002 reprint]. Animal Physiology: Adaptation and Environment, 5th edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
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