Some scientists let their curiosity make them do truly weird experiments. Meet Ken Catania. He studies strange-looking creatures, such as the star-nosed mole and its unusual way to smell underwater. More recently, Catania has been focusing on electric eels, and their ‘shocking’ abilities.
He discovered that eels can control how much electricity they put out. They use low voltage pulses to sense for prey, and they can turn up the power to make prey (think of fish) twitch or go numb. That was fascinating, but then Catania came across an 1800s illustration and an odd South American story from famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt wrote of eels attacking a group of horses that had stepped into a pool where the eels lived. There is a drawing of the time of this event, which you can see in this short video.
“The aggressive behavior of the eels, taking the offensive against the horses, seems the most fantastic and questionable part of the story,” he said.
Just when scientists thought they knew all there was to know about electric eels, here comes an old tale that makes them wonder. Can eels really jump out of the water? Catania had to solve the mystery and so he did using props shaped like alligator heads and human arms, and electric connections to see with his own eyes whether eels in his lab could jump as Humboldt’s allegedly did.
The Shocking Secret of the Electric Eel book also includes four more secrets: how parrot fish don’t let the sea bugs bite, the jumping spider’s amazing ‘hairy’ hearing, the mystery of European eels and their heads (these are much smaller that the electric eel and won’t shock you), and the secret of the underwater night hummers.
May I entice you with more animal secrets? I invite you to visit my website to explore the other titles of this series.
Teacher’s Guides for the other Animal Secrets books in this series are also available when you click on the eel above.
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