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A new species of electric eel produces the highest voltage discharge of any known animal

Publicado em 10 setembro 2019

There are at least three species of electric eels (Electrophorus spp.), not just one as previously believed. Two new species have recently been described with São Paulo Research Foundation—FAPESP's support by a group of researchers affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society, among other institutions. One of the new species can discharge up to 860 volts, the strongest of any known animal.

Electric eels are naked-back knifefishes (Gymnotidae) and are more closely related to catfish and carp than to other eel families.

Study - Nature - Communications - Knowledge - Animal

The study, published in Nature Communications, not only provides new knowledge about the animal more than 250 years after it was first described but also opens up new avenues of research into the origin and production of strong electric discharges in other fish species.

Gymnotiformes, the knifefish family to which Gymnotidae belong, are native to Mexico and South America, are found almost exclusively in freshwater habitats, and are mostly nocturnal. There are currently approximately 250 valid gymnotiform species among 34 genera and five families.

Field - Communication - Navigation - Eyes

All are capable of producing a weak electric field for communication and navigation (most have very small eyes).

"The electric eel, which can reach 2.5 meters in length, is the only fish that produces such a strong discharge; it uses three electric organs. The shock is used for defense and predation," said Carlos David de Santana, an associate researcher at the US National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), administered by the Smithsonian Institution, and first author of the article.

DNA - Morphology - Data - Voltage - Researchers

By correlating DNA, morphology and environmental data, and measuring the discharged voltage, the researchers concluded that the animals in question should be reclassified into three species. The only species of electric eel previously known to science was Electrophorus electricus, which Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus described in 1766.

In addition to E. electricus, now defined as the species that lives in...

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