In the Amazon rainforest, a hitherto undiscovered species of Elektroaal has been discovered that delivers a shock of more than three times the voltage of a household power outlet.
The enormous 2.5-meter eel was referred to aselectrophorus voltaiafter Alessandro Volta, the Italian physicist who invented the battery.
The animal, a species of knifefish, can cause an electric shock of up to 860 volts, the strongest of all animals known in science.
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Research by a São Paulo Research Foundation team of scientists from the Smithsonian Institute and the National Geographic Society also found another special kind of eelaal – the planet's recognized electric eel species three to lift.
"It is truly shocking to discover a new variety in such a distinctive fish, first described 250 years ago," said the lead author of the research paper. Carlos David de Santana of the US National Museum of Natural History reported theNew York Times.
The tremendous suspense Starting with the new species, one aspect was how the team divided the species previously identified as a species into three separate species.
The use of tension that an animal can produce is a novelty in taxonomy.
The team also correlated DNA, morphology and environmental data to conclude that the animals in question should be divided into three species.
The only known species of Elektroaal in science wasElectrophorus electricuswhich was described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1766.
In addition toE. electricusdefined today as the species living in the northernmost part of the Amazon, the researchers found sufficient differences to add two new species to the genus: E. variiandE. voltai.
ProfessorNaércio Menezesfrom the Zoological Museum of the University of Sao Paulo said: "We have used tension as the main distinguishing criterion. This has never been done before to identify a new species.
In field measurements with a voltmeter, the researchers registered a discharge of 860 volts, the highest being recorded an animal was found, for a copy of E. Voltai. The strongest shock recorded before was 650 volts.
Although the tension is high, it is unlikely to be lethal to humans because the amplitude of the shocks is low.
In the traditional analogy to understanding the measurements of Figure 5 Imagine a hose instead of a power cord. The water is the electricity and the voltage is the water pressure – set to a certain level, regardless of whether the faucet is on or off. Amplitude is the rate at which water flows through the hose when the tap is turned on – this is also determined by the resistance in ohms, which is equal to the size of the hose.
Santana, who has penetrated many rivers to collect electric eels for research purposes, and was shocked several times, is discharging a high voltage at low current (about 1 ampere), so it is not necessarily dangerous to humans.
For comparison: A shock from a socket can be 10 or 20 amps.
A shock from the strongest electric eel in the world would not be a pleasant experience.
"I remember the first one when I was shocked," Dr. de Santana of the New York Times. "I was scared," he said, adding that he dropped his gear.
The research team also learned more about the social characteristics of animals. So far, electric eels were considered loners who went hunting for prey in the darkness alone.
They reported that the eels had co-ordinated their robbery maneuvers, almost like lions on the hunt, but armed lions with power.
"This social behavior is quite unusual," said Professor Menzes. "They come together in a school, surround the fish they eat, release electricity and kill them."
The study was published inNature Communications.