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Recently identified electric eels are the most powerful ever found, say researchers



Scientists at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History have identified two new species of electric eels in the Amazon rainforest, tripling the known number of electric eels.
One of the new species – Electrophorus voltai – can discharge up to 860 volts of electricity, significantly more than the 650 volts generated by the known electric eel species, Electrophorus electricus, the study published in the journal Nature Communications found.
These electric eels – which are actually a type of fish with an eel-like appearance – can grow to up to eight meters (2.4 meters) and highlight how much remains to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest, study leader David de Santana, research manager at the Smithsonians National Museum of Natural History, said in a press release.

"They are really eye-catching," de Santana said. "If you can discover a new eight meter long fish after 250 years of scientific exploration, can you imagine what remains to be discovered in that region?"

What are electric eels?

For 250 years, scientists have known that electric eels live in the Amazon basin. They just didn't know how many species were lurking there.

Scientists have long believed that the electric eels found in swamps, streams, streams and rivers across South America were all the same species. The new study shows that eels actually belong to three different species.

All three species look essentially the same externally and use their power to navigate, communicate, hunt and for self-defense. But when researchers analyzed 1

07 samples, they found that the three species had different genetic material, unique skull shapes and different levels of stress.

Based on their research, Santana and his team believe that the three species began to evolve from their common ancestor about 7.1 million years ago.

The eel's tension may have been affected by the conductivity of the waters in which it lived, the research found. For example, Electrophorus voltai, lived in the clear waters of the highlands that did not conduct electricity well. According to de Santana, the stronger voltage of the species may be an adaptation to the poor conductivity of the water.

There are about 250 species of fish capable of generating electricity, but electric eels are the only ones that use electricity for hunting and self-defense.

In 1799, researchers used electric eels as inspiration behind the first battery design, and have also inspired ideas on how to improve technology and treat disease.

The newly discovered electric eel species could have developed unique systems for producing electricity – perhaps a different system than the first species discovered – which could lead to several discoveries, de Santana said.

"It can really have different enzymes, different compounds that can be used in medicine or could inspire new technology," he said.


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