You want a good example of devotion to job? Take a look at Ken Catania, a neurobiologist at Vanderbilt University, who reached into a tank containing an electric eel 10 different times in order to measure the power released by the highly charged fish.
Recently, Catania allowed an eel approximately one foot long to zap his arm as he held a device that measured the strength of the slippery beast’s current, according to the website Red Orbit.
Catania works with eels a good deal so he knew what to expect.
The sensation was similar to touching a hot stove or an electric fence, he said, adding that it caused him to reflexively withdraw his arm from the water.
Catania was prompted to conduct the study by a famous story by noted German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt, who described catching large electric eels in the Amazon in 1800 when local fisherman drove horses and mules into a body of water, and eels leaped at the animals’ legs.
Once the eels had exhausted themselves – and their electrical charges were depleted – they were easy to snare, Humboldt reported.
However, this behavior had not been seen in the more than two centuries since, and some considered it no more than a fable.
Last year, Catania reported seeing an eel leap from the water and press its chin against an apparent threat while discharging high-voltage energy, supporting Humboldt’s account, Red Orbit reported.
That experience prompted Catania’s most recent experiment. And, as in Humboldt’s experience, the eel did indeed jump to apply a jolt to Catania’s arm.
Catania revealed in the journal Current Biology that the small electric eel he worked with delivered a current that peaked at about 40 or 50 milliamps. However, his calculations indicated that a larger eel would deliver a far stronger jolt, with a pulse rate higher than that given off by a law enforcement taser.