We've known for quite some time that electric eels supply quite the electrical charge, but up until now it was not entirely clear how they attacked their prey. Scientists from Vanderbilt University recently published research in the journal, Science, that clears up this mystery.
|Electric eel (Photo: Stan Shebs)|
The study shows that the eels send out a series of shocks to immobilize their prey. The interesting part is that the shocks seem to usurp the nervous system of the prey. The first pulses make the prey fish twitch uncontrollably, which alerts the eel to its position. The next pulses are high frequency shocks that basically take over the prey's nervous system remotely, making their muscles contract and their fate as a meal inevitable.
To show that the fish were no longer in control of their body's functions the researchers tested the effects on fish they had removed the brains from. The muscles of the "zombie fish" contracted with the pulse the eel sent out, proving that the eel's signal was in control of the fish. Further testing showed this also to be true in different scenarios.
This particular behavior is interesting in the respect that it not only serves to stun and trap the eel's prey, but also to find them in the dark murky waters it hunts in. It is unknown if this phenomena occurs in any other predatory fish. This is only one of the amazing adaptations in the world of plants and animals. Check out my other posts that involve plant and animal adaptations here.
- Science News: "Electric eels remote-control nervous systems of prey"
- New Scientist: "Eels use electricity to remote control prey movements"
- Geek.com: "Electric eels can remote control their prey"
- Science: "The shocking predatory strike of the electric eel" (Abstract)
Eel and Ocean Adaptation Resources: