electric eel

an eellike, freshwater fish, Electrophorus electricus, found in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers and tributaries, sometimes over 6 ft. (1.8 m) long, capable of emitting strong electric discharges.
[1785-95]

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Eel-shaped South American fish (Electrophorus electricus) capable of producing an electric shock strong enough to stun a human.

The electric eel (not a true eel) is a sluggish inhabitant of slow freshwater, surfacing periodically to gulp air. Long, cylindrical, scaleless, and gray-brown, it sometimes reaches a length of 9 ft (2.75 m) and a weight of 49 lbs (22 kg). The tail region, bordered below by a long anal fin that the fish undulates to move about, contains the electric organs. The shock (up to 650 volts discharged at will) is used mainly to immobilize fish and other prey.

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fish
      elongated South American fish that produces a powerful electric shock (electrical shock) to stun its prey, usually other fish.

      Long, cylindrical, scaleless, and usually gray-brown (sometimes with a red underside), the electric eel can grow to 2.75 metres (9 feet) and weigh 22 kg (48.5 pounds). The tail region constitutes about four-fifths of the electric eel's total length, which is bordered along the underside by an undulating anal fin that is used to propel the fish. Despite its name, it is not a true eel but is related to the characin fish, which include piranhas (piranha) and neon tetras (tetra). The electric eel is one of the principal aquatic predators of the whitewater flooded forest known as varzea. In one fish survey of a typical varzea, electric eels made up more than 70 percent of the fish biomass. The electric eel is a sluggish creature that prefers slow-moving fresh water, where it surfaces every few minutes to gulp air. The mouth of the electric eel is rich with blood vessels that allow it to use the mouth as a lung. The vestigial gills are only used to eliminate carbon dioxide, not for oxygen uptake.

      The electric eel's penchant for shocking its prey may have evolved to protect its sensitive mouth from injury from struggling, often spiny, fish. The shocked prey is stunned long enough to be sucked through the mouth directly to the stomach. Sometimes the electric eel does not bother to stun prey but simply gulps faster than the prey can react. The tail region contains the electric organs, which are derived from muscle tissue enervated by spinal nerves, and discharges 300–650 volts—a charge powerful enough to jolt humans. These organs may also be used to help the creature navigate and to communicate with other electric eels. The electric eel eats fallen fruit as well as fish, thereby aiding in seed dispersal via defecation. (See also rainforest ecosystem sidebar, “.”)

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Electric eel — Electric E*lec tric ([ e]*l[e^]k tr[i^]k), Electrical E*lec tric*al ([ e]*l[e^]k tr[i^]*kal), a. [L. electrum amber, a mixed metal, Gr. h lektron; akin to hle ktwr the beaming sun, cf. Skr. arc to beam, shine: cf. F. [ e]lectrique. The name came… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • electric eel — n. any of a family (Electrophoridae) of large, eel shaped cyprinoid fishes of N South America, having special organs that can give severe electric shocks …   English World dictionary

  • electric eel — n a large eel shaped bony fish (Electrophorus electricus of the family Electrophoridae) of the Orinoco and Amazon basins that is capable of giving a severe shock with electricity generated by a special tract of tissue …   Medical dictionary

  • electric eel — ► NOUN ▪ a large eel like freshwater fish of South America, which uses pulses of electricity to kill prey, assist in navigation, and for defence …   English terms dictionary

  • Electric eel — Taxobox name = Electric eel image width = 240px regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Osteichthyes ordo = Gymnotiformes familia = Gymnotidae genus = Electrophorus species = E. electricus binomial = Electrophorus electricus binomial… …   Wikipedia

  • electric eel — noun eel shaped freshwater fish of South America having electric organs in its body • Syn: ↑Electrophorus electric • Hypernyms: ↑cypriniform fish • Member Holonyms: ↑Electrophorus, ↑genus Electrophorus * * * noun, pl ⋯ eels [ …   Useful english dictionary

  • electric eel — /əˌlɛktrɪk ˈil/ (say uh.lektrik eel) noun 1. (plural electric eel or electric eels) any of several eel like freshwater fish, especially Electrophorus electricus, of northern South America, having the power of giving strong electric discharges. 2 …   Australian English dictionary

  • electric eel — elektrinis ungurys statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Electrophorus electricus angl. electric eel rus. электрический угорь ryšiai: platesnis terminas – elektriniai unguriai …   Žuvų pavadinimų žodynas

  • Electric Eel — Electric Eels Electric Eels était un groupe de glam rock, précurseur du genre, et actif entre 1972 et 1975. Le groupe s est formé à Cleveland, Ohio, à une époque où le punk rock n était pas encore distingué en tant que style de musique, mais où… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • electric eel — elec′tric eel′ n. ich a long eel shaped South American freshwater fish, Electrophorus electricus, of the carp family, that can emit strong electric discharges • Etymology: 1785–95 …   From formal English to slang

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