Researcher allows himself to be zapped by electric eel

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.

14 thoughts on “Researcher allows himself to be zapped by electric eel

    • Big, but getting them into the pool could be a problem. I personally don’t like to mess with eels, lampreys, or, and I’ve never come across these, hideous things called hagfish. All of them are nasty creatures that seem more than capable of doing more than their share of harm to whomever is nearby. Give me snakes and gators any day of the week.

      • I looked up hagfish and wished I hadn’t. Not so close after supper.
        I could buy lampreys in the markets in France, but since my only recipe for cooking them was so barbarous I never bought them. I had no idea they werre vicious…….

      • Yes, neither are very attractive. I caught a lamprey once while fishing (I snagged it with a treble hook), and wished I hadn’t afterward. What ornery beasts. And, yes, hagfish can turn the strongest person’s stomach.

    • According to trusty old Wikipedia, Electric eels inhabit fresh waters of the Amazon and Orinoco River basins in South America. I would swear I saw an electric eel light up while swimming in a small canal near a Louisiana swamp when I was kid living, but I don’t know if it was a transplant or some other kind of eel. I did catch eels in Louisiana, but couldn’t tell you if they were electric. They may be confined to South America, which would be OK with me.

  1. I ghostwrite the biographies of wealthy senior citizens, one of whom owned a pet store in his youth with two of his brothers. They had a electric eel that jumped out of the aquarium as one of the bothers was teasing it with food just above the surface of the water. It was a large eel. They got it back into the aquarium with a wood-handled snow shovel.

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