Scientists' New Find Is Literally Shocking

New species of electric eel can deliver most powerful jolt of any animal
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 11, 2019 12:40 PM CDT
Scientists' New Find Is Literally Shocking
An article shows that three species of electric eel exist, not just one as previously described, and that one of them produces an electric shock up to 860 volts.   (C. David de Santana)

The electric eel just got more electric. A newly discovered species found in the Amazon can inflict an 860-volt jolt—the strongest of any animal, say researchers. How strong is that? Science reports you'd experience a jolt of up to 240 volts if you stuck a fork in a wall outlet; a taser delivers about 1200 volts. The Electrophorus voltai was one of two new species identified in the Amazon basin, the work of researchers at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History who ran DNA tests on 107 samples gathered from the area. The prevailing belief had been that there was just one electric eel species: the Electrophorus electricus, which can deliver a 650-volt jolt and was identified in 1766 by famed naturalist Carl Linnaeus, per a press release.

The analysis revealed the existence of E. voltai and Electrophorus varii. So why the stronger shock from E. voltai? Per the study published in Nature Communications, the three species occupy separate areas. E. voltai is in the Brazilian Shield, whose highland waters have reduced conductivity, which researchers theorize the eels adapted to by upping the power of their zaps, reports the AFP. The eel's name is a nod to physicist Alessandro Volta, who invented the electric battery in 1799 using a design inspired by the electric eel. The fish can measure up to 8 feet in length. "They're really conspicuous," study leader Carlos David de Santana tells CNN. "If you can discover a new eight-foot-long fish after 250 years of scientific exploration, can you imagine what remains to be discovered in that region?" (More discoveries stories.)

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