Remarkably there exist quite a few species of marine creatures that generate electricity. These creatures possess an electric generating organ that is used as an offensive organ to help hunt down food, or as a defensive organ to protect themselves from larger predators. While most species that can generate an electrical discharge are below the 1 volt mark, we have compiled a list of the 5 most shocking underwater creatures which will make you think twice before donning that scuba diving equipment.
1. Electric Eel (370-650 volts!)
The electric eel tops our countdown as being the number one underwater creature with the ability to generate the greatest electric current from its body.
Though called the electric eel, this creature does not belong to the family of eels but a species of knifefish which is a close relative of the catfish. Found primarily in the muddy bottoms of the fresh waters of the Amazon and Orinoco river basins in South America, these shocking creatures can generate a powerful electric current of up to 650volts to paralyze or kill its prey. Just to put this into perspective; this is 5 times the shock you would get from sticking your finger into an electrical socket. Generally 100-300 volts can shock the heart into defibrillation if the path of the current flows through the heart. A higher voltage will probably stop the heart. Electric eels have been known to stun animals as large as horses as they attempt to cross the river.
2. Electric Catfish (350-450 volts)
The electric catfish which has around 18 freshwater catfish species native to the Nile in Africa, can grow up to 1.2 m (4 feet) in length and 20 kg (45 pounds) in weight. This creature is capable of generating and controlling the discharge of up to 450 volts of electricity. It uses its power to defend itself and to capture prey. The electric organ is composed of modified muscle tissue and forms a fine, gelatinous layer directly beneath the soft, naked skin of the fish. Though the shock an electric catfish can generate is enough to kill a human, there are no documented cases of human fatalities caused by the catfish which would require repeated discharges to be fatal.
3. Electric Ray (37-220 volts)
Electric Rays belong to the family Torpediniformes which is derived from the Latin word ‘torpere’ which mean to stun or paralyze. These flattened cartilaginous creatures have the potential to produce an electric discharge ranging from 37 volts right up to a staggering 220 volts. Ranging from 6 inches these underwater stunners can grow to a length of 6 feet long and weigh up to 200 pounds. Like most rays electric rays are bottom dwelling and slow moving creatures relying heavily on their tails. They feed on invertebrates and small fish and lie in wait for prey below the sand or other substrate, using their electricity to stun and capture it. The common torpedo has five bright blue, dark-edged spots on its back making it easily recognizable.
4. Electric Stargazer (50 Volts)
Stargazers possess a large upward-facing mouth in an equally large head and have their eyes on the top of their heads, giving them their name. Their usual habit is to bury themselves in sand, and leap upwards to ambush prey that passes overhead. Some species have a worm-shaped lure growing out of the floor of the mouth, which they can wiggle to attract prey’s attention. Electric Stargazers possess their electric organ behind each of their eyes that is capable of generating up to 50 volts of electricity which is more than sufficient to stun or kills its prey.
5. Skate (4 volts)
This flat cartilaginous creature makes our list at the bottom, being able to generate 4 volts of electric discharge from their rather weak electric organs. Many studies have shown that the Skate uses its electric discharge more as a method of communication than to stun its prey or defend it. The skate contains its electric organ inside its tail and several of the approximately 100 species in the skate family are capable of emitting electrical charges. Found in most seas, it remains close to the seabed and burrows into it to conceal itself when resting. The skate can create a vacuum between itself and the bottom of the sea, producing suction that makes it difficult for predators to move the fish. Skate can measure anywhere from 1 foot to more than 20 feet, depending on the species (the largest skate is the manta ray)