Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Electric eel produces highest voltage discharge of any known animal


Date: September 10, 2019
Source: Smithsonian


South American rivers are home to at least three different species of electric eels, including a newly identified species capable of generating a greater electrical discharge than any other known animal, according to a new analysis of 107 fish collected in Brazil, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname in recent years.

Scientists have known for more than 250 years that electric eels, which send electricity pulsing through the water to stun their prey, live in the Amazon basin. They are widely distributed in swamps, streams, creeks, and rivers across northern South America, and have long been thought to belong to a single species. With modern genetic and ecological analyses, however, researchers at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History have discovered that electric eels in the Amazon basin belong to three different species that evolved from a shared ancestor millions of years ago. The findings are reported Sept. 10 in the journal Nature Communications.

The identification of two new species of electric eel highlights how much remains to be discovered within the Amazon rainforest -- one of Earth's biodiversity hotspots -- as well as the importance of protecting and preserving this threatened environment, says study leader C. David de Santana, a research associate in the museum's division of fishes. "These fish grow to be seven to eight feet long. They're really conspicuous," he says. "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?"

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