A researcher reveals the shocking truth about electric eels | Science News

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A researcher reveals the shocking truth about electric eels

Electrical current of a real-life recipient of the fish’s leap attack is measured for the first time

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2:14pm, September 14, 2017
electric eel zap

TAKING ONE FOR SCIENCE  This electric eel may be relatively small, but the pain from its shock is comparable to that from an electric fence, a researcher has learned.

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Kenneth Catania knows just how much it hurts to be zapped by an electric eel. For the first time, the biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville has measured the strength of a defensive electrical attack on a real-life potential predator — himself.

Catania placed his arm in a tank with a 40-centimeter-long electric eel (relatively small as eels go) and determined, in amperes, the electrical current that flowed into him when the eel struck. At its peak, the current reached 40 to 50 milliamperes in his arm, he reports online September 14 in Current Biology. This zap was painful enough to cause him to jerk his hand from the tank during each trial. “If you’ve ever been on a farm and touched an electric fence, it’s pretty similar to that,” he says.

This is Catania’s latest study in a body of research

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