Ferocious electric eels leap right out of water to attack ‘predators’ (VIDEO)
A new study has revealed that the eels can leap out from water to “directly electrify threats” and defend themselves against predators.
Kenneth Catania from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee saw the eels break the mold in his lab while attempting to move them in a metal-rimmed net.
“I was definitely surprised,” he is quoted by New Scientist. “This isn’t something electric eels typically do.”
Catania witnessed the eels leaping from the water in their tank and emit high voltage shocks while keeping their chin in constant contact with the metal nets to inflict maximum damage.
“The behavior consists of an approach and leap out of the water during which the eel presses its chin against a threatening conductor while discharging high-voltage volleys,” his study says.
“The effect is to short-circuit the electric organ through the threat, with increasing power diverted to the threat as the eel attains greater height during the leap.”
Electric eels can emit high voltage pulses to attack prey or predators or low voltage pulses to feel out their environment. The pulses can cause the muscles of unseen prey to involuntarily twitch and reveal their location.
Catania was studying electric eels when he “serendipitously discovered” the incredible out-of-water attacks. He filmed the attacks by positioning a fake arm and then a fake alligator head rigged with LED lighting into a tank in his lab, prompting the eel’s defensive leaps.
The electric eel attacked both props ferociously - jumping out of the water, slithering up the ‘threat’ and emitting ever-increasing currents. The researcher noted that “the recorded voltage increased dramatically as the eels ascended.”
Catania believes this behavior in electric eels is a response to seasonal changes in their home habitat on the Amazon river, where seasonal dry conditions can strand the eels in shallow pools and expose them to predators.
Being pro-active and leaping out of the water to attack is often the best form of defense.
It’s not only in the Amazon, though, where eels demonstrate their aggressive - and terrifying - behavior. In July 2013 Irish deepsea diver Jimmy Griffin was swimming off the west coast of Ireland when a conger eel measuring more than 6ft (1.83 meters) bit a massive chunk out of his face.