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Electric eel

Electrophorus electricus

Description: Electric eels have a dark gray-brown, elongated, cylindrical body with yellow or orange on the belly. The mouth is large and the head is flattened slightly. Even though they have gills, almost 80% of oxygen that they breathe is in through their mouth. They have an anal fin that extends the entire length of their body and is used for locomotion, going forward as well as backward. Their skin is thick and slimy, protecting them from the electrical current they produce. The electric charge they emit, at least 600 volts, is produced by about 6,000 specialized cells (electrocute) contained within three electric organs that take up the majority of the posterior portion of their body. The two larger electric organs, the Main and Hunters, send out large electrical currents and the smaller organ, the Sachs, sends out weak signals.

Size: These eels can reach lengths of six to eight feet (1.8 -2.4 m) and weigh as much as 44 pounds (20 kg).

Behavior: Electric eels are non-aggressive, but will use their electrical capabilities as defense against predators and to immobilize their prey. When hunting for food, an electric charge stuns the prey, making it difficult to escape. The eel will then open its huge mouth and suck it in. Since they breathe air, they must surface frequently.

Diet: Adults mainly eat amphibians, fish and crustaceans, while juveniles eat invertebrates.

Senses: Since their eyesight is poor they must rely on electricity to sense their environment (electrolocation). Their sense of sound is well developed.

Communication: Communication is done by using the Sachs organ. This organ transmits a signal with an amplitude of 10V and is used for finding food and choosing a mate.

Reproduction: Reproduction occurs during the dry season. The male builds a nest with his saliva where the female deposits as many as 17,000 eggs. The male is very protective, defending the nest and its fry

Habitat/range: These eels inhabit fresh water muddy bottoms of the Orinoco and Amazon River basins in South America.

Status: Listed as Least Concern on IUCN Red List.