The electric eel may be one of the most remarkable predators in the entire animal kingdom. That is the conclusion of Kenneth Catania, Ph.D., Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt University, who has spent the last three years studying the way this reclusive South American fish uses electric fields to navigate through the muddy waters of the Amazon and Orinoco basins where it lives, to locate hidden prey, and to stun them into submission. Electric eels can grow to lengths exceeding eight feet and weights of more than 44 pounds. Over two thirds of the eel's body is filled with specialized cells called electrocytes that store electricity like small biological batteries. When the eel is threatened or attacking prey, these cells discharge simultaneously, emitting electrical discharges of at least 600 volts, five times the voltage of a standard U.S. wall socket. "Historically, electric eels have been viewed as unsophisticated, primitive creatures that have a single play in their playbook: shocking their prey to death," said Dr. Catania. "But it turns out that they can manipulate their electric fields in an intricate fashion that gives them a number of remarkable abilities." One of the biologist's latest discoveries, reported online on October 28, 2015 in the journal Current Biology, is that the eels have a special maneuver that allows them to double the electrical shock that they can deliver to particularly large or difficult prey. This article is titled “Electric Eels Concentrate Their Electric Field to Induce Involuntary Fatigue in Struggling Prey.” The eel's electrical system essentially provides it with a wireless Taser that it uses to stun its prey. In a study published last year, Dr.
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