AnimalsReference

Electric Eel

Discover the shocking power of an eel that can unleash over 600 volts. See how these air breathers survive in the waters of the Amazon basin.

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Electric eels can generate an electrical charge of up to 600 volts in order to stun prey and keep predators at bay.

Common Name: Electric Eel
Scientific Name: Electrophorus electricus
Type: Fish
Diet: Carnivore
Average life span in Captivity:  15 years.
Size: 6 to 8 feet
Weight: 44 pounds

Size relative to a 6-ft man

IUCN Red List Status: 
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The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

lc

Least Concern

At relatively low risk of extinction

nt

Near Threatened

Likely to become vulnerable in the near future

vu

Vulnerable

At high risk of extinction in the wild

en

Endangered

At very high risk of extinction in the wild

cr

Critically Endangered

At extremely high risk of extinction in the wild

ew

Extinct in the Wild

Survives only in captivity

ex

Extinct

No surviving individuals in the wild or in captivity

Data Deficient

Not enough information available to make an assessment

Not Evaluated

No assessment has been made

?
Least Concern
lc
nt
vu
en
cr
ew
ex
least concernextinct
Current Population Trend: 

Stablearrow-right


Despite their serpentine appearance, electric eels are not actually eels. Their scientific classification is closer to carp and catfish.

Electric Discharge

These famous freshwater predators get their name from the enormous electrical charge they can generate to stun prey and dissuade predators. Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 specialized cells called electrocytes that store power like tiny batteries. When threatened or attacking prey, these cells will discharge simultaneously.

Diet and Behavior

They live in the murky streams and ponds of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, feeding mainly on fish, but also amphibians and even birds and small mammals. As air-breathers, they must come to the surface frequently. They also have poor eyesight, but can emit a low-level charge, less than 10 volts, which they use like radar to navigate and locate prey.

Characteristics

Electric eels can reach huge proportions, exceeding 8 feet in length and 44 pounds in weight. They have long, cylindrical bodies and flattened heads and are generally dark green or grayish on top with yellowish coloring underneath.

Threats to Humans

Human deaths from electric eels are extremely rare. However, multiple shocks can cause respiratory or heart failure, and people have been known to drown in shallow water after a stunning jolt.

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