Simple move makes attack more shocking to prey
Electric eels are even more shocking than biologists thought. When prey fights back, eels just — curl their tails.
Muscle has evolved “into a battery” independently in two groups of fishes, explains Kenneth Catania of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Smaller species send out slight tingles of electric current that detect the fish’s surroundings in murky nighttime water. People can handle these small fishes and not feel even a tickle. But touching the bigger Electrophorus electricus (a member of a South American group of battery-included fishes)“is reminiscent of walking into an electric fence on a farm,” Catania says. (He knows, unintentionally, from experience.)
The modified muscle that works as an electricity-generating organ in the eel has just on/off power. But eels have a unique way of intensifying the