Electric eels are freshwater fish that can generate electricity. They aren’t true eels. In fact, electric eels aren’t even close relatives of true eels. Instead, they are neotropical knifefish, thus making them closer relatives of catfish.
What Makes an Electric Eel Stand Out?
The electric eel is one of those species that give taxonomists headaches. This can be seen in how it was once assigned to the same genus as the banded knifefish in 1766 before moving into its own genus in 1864. Moreover, it’s amusing to note that scientists have now suggested dividing electric eels into not one, not two, but three separate species due to differences in body, habitat, and even divergences in DNA.
Of course, the electric eel’s most notable characteristic would be its ability to generate electricity. For those who are curious, this is possible because it has multiple organs made out of electrolytes. When the electric eel’s brain gives the signal, these cells will reverse the polarity by letting sodium flow through the ion channels that they form, thus resulting in an electric current. It can use this electricity to stun its victims. Moreover, it can use this electricity to activate the muscles of its victims, thus causing them to reveal themselves—something that is particularly useful when electric eels are cruising about in search of food.
Besides this, electric eels do have some other notable characteristics as well. For example, they are air-breathers. Similarly, they are actually capable of hunting in coordinated packs. Still, there can be no doubt about the fact that electric eels are best-known for their electricity, thus explaining their name.