What do Pikachu, Voltorb, Jolteon and the Black Ghost Knifefish have in common? They can all generate electricity! Now, as much as we’d like to tell you all about electric Pokémon, we’re going to focus on some real-life electric animals that are just as interesting!
Let’s take a dive underwater and meet some fish that don’t just make a splash but are also shockingly electric!
Despite its name, an electric eel isn’t actually an eel but a knifefish. They live in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America and have special cells that store electricity like a battery. When they are threatened or on the hunt, they can release their electricity all at once, giving their target quite a shock!
Relatives of the stingray, electric rays are found in oceans all over the world and you don’t want to get them charged up! They have special organs which generate a strong electric zap that they use for hunting or to defend themselves against predators.
Black Ghost Knifefish
Found in the waters of South America, black ghost knifefish can also generate electricity like their electric eel cousins. Their electricity isn’t as powerful as the other fish on this list, but they can discharge it almost 2000 times a second! That’s because it’s not meant for hunting or defence, but to navigate and communicate.
Stargazers certainly look strange but don’t call them ugly or you might be in for a shock! When attacked, two species of stargazers (Uranoscopus and Astroscopus) can fight back, electric style! Not only can these fish zap their attackers, but they also have two large venomous spines, a combo which led one scientist to call them “the meanest things in creation.”
Electric catfish can also cause a spark. Found in the Nile River and the waters of western and central Africa, they are the only group of catfish that can create electricity. They use their power for hunting, defense and attack, exploring and searching for prey.
All of these fish are bioelectrogenetic (bio-electro-genetic), which means they are living beings that can generate electricity. Unlike these fish, we have to get our electricity elsewhere and it’s taking its toll on our planet.
A lot of our electricity comes from burning fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and speed up climate change. That’s why we need to save energy, and doing Missions like Flip the Switch is a great place to start.
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– Alves-Gomes, J.A. (2001). “The evolution of electroreception and bioelectrogenesis in teleost fish: a phylogenetic perspective”. Journal of Fish Biology. 58 (6): 1489–1511