electric fish

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

electric fish, name for various fish that produce electricity by means of organs usually developed from modified muscle tissue. The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus), a South American freshwater knifefish unrelated to the eel, has organs along the ventral surface capable of producing from 450 to 600 volts of electricity—enough to light a neon bulb. Other electric fish include the electric ray, or torpedo; a freshwater electric catfish with a jellylike subcutaneous electric organ (probably of epidermal origin) that extends over the whole body; and various species of stargazer. All these fish produce electricity at will to paralyze or kill their prey, to repel their enemies, and to aid in navigation. Recent experiments have shown that when an electric eel is in motion it generates pulses of low-energy electricity which serve to detect the presence of nearby objects. Scientists believe that electric organs in fishes may function also in communication between individuals. Electric eels are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Gymnotiformes, family Gymnotidae.

views updated

electric fish Fish that are capable of generating electric discharges. A number of species, belonging to different families, have this capability. Some (e.g. Electrophorus electricus, electric eel and the electric rays, such as the Atlantic Torpedo nobiliana) can produce strong, stunning currents capable of immobilizing potential prey. The electric organs are derived from muscle tissue which is organized as a series of units, each one acting as a type of battery. The electric eel (which is related to the carp, not to the true eel) also uses the electrical pulses as a navigational aid, as does the African elephant fish (Mormyridae).