Scientists previously believed that there was only one species of electric eel, but that has now been proven wrong. There are at least three species of the electric eel. The new species were recently discovered by members of the Sao Paulo Research Foundation with support from various other organizations. The team found that one of the new species of electric eels can produce a charge of up to 860 volts.
A charge of 860 volts is the highest discharge of any known animal. Electric eels are naked-back knifefishes and are more closely related to catfish and carp than other eel families. This type of creature is found in Mexico and South American and are almost exclusively found in freshwater and are mostly nocturnal.
All are capable of producing a weak electric field for communication and navigation as well as protection. Electric eels can reach 2.5 meters in length and use three electric organs to generate a charge. After studying DNA information, morphology, and environmental data, the team concluded there were three species of electric eels, not just one.
E. electricus refers to a species in the northernmost part of the Amazon. The two new species are in the genus E. varii and E. voltai. The team says that it used voltage as the key differentiator between the species. Using a voltmeter the E. Volti was recorded making an 860V shock, the highest shock previously on record was 650V. The shocks have low amperage and aren’t dangerous to humans.
The team also found that eels of this sort aren’t solitary creatures and frequently swim in schools of up to ten adults. The new classifications are based on an analysis of 107 specimens collected in different parts of the Amazon in Brazil, Suriname, French Guiana, and Guyana.