The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Electric Current from an Electric Eel

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"Electric Fish." Encyclopedia Americana. "The electric eel (Electrophorous electricus) can produce a discharge of over 500 volts (at about one ampere) and the fresh water African catfish (Malapterurus electricus) produces about 350 volts." 1 A
 Guinness Book of Records. New York: Bantam, 1992: 95. "The most powerful electric fish is the electric eel, which is found in the rivers of Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, and Peru. An average size specimen can discharge 400 volts at 1 amp, but measurements up to 650 volts have been recorded." 1 A

Electric eels are not eels. They are fish of the family Gymnotidae. They can produce electric currents. These serpentine fish can produce paralyzing discharges with their powerful electric organs. The powerful electric organs lie on either side of the vertebral column. These electric organs have around 5,000 to 6,000 electroplates which are arranged like cells in a battery. The organ emits 2 kinds of discharges, a high voltage one and a weaker one. The high voltage discharge can go up to around one ampere at 500 volts. It is usually for stunning prey. The weaker discharge is used for direction and as an indicator for locating objects. Electric eels have been known to knock down a horse crossing a stream from 20 feet away not to mention also killing humans. They are also known to still emit discharge eight to nine hours after their death. The shock from an electric eel affects the body by altering physiological functions such as involuntary muscle actions and respiration. Symptoms of being shocked by an electric eel can be respiratory paralysis and cardiac failure. These symptoms may result in death.

Sunny Feng -- 2000

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