Electric Eels Hunt Together | Science and life


One electric eel species Electrophorus voltai generates an electrical discharge with a voltage of 860 volts. Now let’s imagine what would happen if there were a hundred such eels. This is not a scene from a horror movie – a collective hunt for electric eels is described in Ecology and Evolution staff of the National Institute for Amazonian Studies and Smithsonian Institution.

Until now, it was believed that electric eels are solitary hunters who rest during the day and look for prey at night. Sensing a fish, the eel approaches it and gives a discharge that paralyzes the victim. But back in 2012, researchers saw in one of the lakes of the Amazon basin, how about a hundred eels were hunting fish, driving them together to shallow water. It was decided to study this strange behavior of eels better. And a few years later, on the Iriri River, they managed to make a video that left no doubt that electric eels could hunt together.


About a hundred eels at dawn or dusk swam to the shore, broke up into groups of about ten individuals and surrounded a small school of small fish. This was followed by a joint electrical discharge. The researchers did not measure the voltage of the general discharge of a group of eels, but, one must think, its strength turns out to be impressive. Eels underwent this procedure up to seven times, and on average one hunt took about two hours.

Group hunting of electric eels is practiced from June to November, when the water level in rivers and lakes drops. In shallow water bodies, fish are clustered, and it is easier to get it, so to speak, in bulk. Perhaps eels remember their hunting companions, gathering each time by the same detachment, but whether this is so or not, remains to be verified.

Among the fish there are those that hunt in groups; Moreover, we once wrote that some fish call for help from individuals of a different species – for example, rock perches cooperate with moray eels. Still, such behavior in fish is extremely rare, and among freshwater species, electric eels are so far the only ones who are engaged in driven hunting.

On the other hand, electric eels are generally a lot of different know-how. To cope with large prey, they embrace it – this way the discharge will be more effective. And in order to scare off a large animal that entered the water, the eel jumps out of the water and tries to touch the enemy in the air – again, so that the electric shock is stronger.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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