Researchers have found a species of electric eel from the Amazon that has more than three times the voltage* of a power point.
The incredible creature is able to make 860 volts* (V) of electricity, compared to the 230V that comes through household power points in Australia.
The only previously known species of electric eel can generate* 650V. For hundreds of years everyone thought this was the only species of electric eel.
Called Electrophorus voltai, the 2.4m long eel uses its superpower to stun its prey.
However, even though electric eels have been seen leaping out of the water, humans are almost never electrocuted* by an electric eel.
The team that made the discovery also found another species of electric eel in the Amazon in South America, which increases the number of recognised species of electric eel from one to three. There are no known electric eels outside South America.
They named the other newly discovered species Electrophorus varii. They can tell the two new species apart because of the enormous voltage of Electrophorus voltai.
The scientists also learned more about electric eels’ behaviour.
They were previously thought of as loners that hunt by themselves under cover of darkness.
But the team spotted eels working together to co-ordinate attacks, similar to how pack animals such as lions hunt, with the added superpower of being able to zap their prey.
The research was by a team from the Sao Paulo Research Foundation, made up of scientists from the Smithsonian Institute and National Geographic Society.
They collected 107 eels in four countries in the Amazon.
Lead author David de Santana said voltai’s size made them hard to miss.
“They’re really conspicuous,” he said.
He said the discovery shows the importance of protecting and studying the Amazon rainforest.
“If you can discover a new 8ft-long fish after 250 years of exploration, can you imagine what remains to be discovered in that region?”
The are now three known species of electric eel, including the previously known Electrophorus electricus, which Swedish naturalist* Carl Linnaeus described in 1766.
Even though we call these three species electric eels, they aren’t really eels. They’re a type of electric fish called knifefish that live in swamps, streams, creeks and rivers across northern South America.
There are hundreds of known species of electric fish in oceans and in freshwater in South America and Africa.
While 250 species of fish in South America make electricity, most are only weakly electric and only electric eels use their power to stun prey and for self-protection.
Many more species — such as sharks and catfish — can detect electricity but can’t make it, so they’re not called electric fish.
There are a few land animals that can detect electricity, including Australia’s echidna plus the platypus, which lives both on land and in water.
The Sun, AP