It was always thought that he was a very lonely fish. But it turns out to be elaborate collective guidelines. Electric eels hunt in a herd according to very well-coordinated patterns. As many or more than a pack of wolves.
An investigation was carried out on the banks of the Iriri River in the Brazilian state of Pará. The team watched the eels work together to trap small fish called tetras. Then groups of up to 10 eels break up regularly to form cooperative hunting groups. This is done with packs of wolves or killer whales. Then these smaller groups surrounded the prey. They simultaneously launched electrical attacks and stunned the Tetras for submission.
“This is an extraordinary discovery.” This was said in a statement from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History fish researcher, C. David de Santana. He is the lead author of the study. “None of this has ever been documented in electric eels.”
Describe this novel behavior in ecology and evolution. The results overturn the idea that these serpentine fish are exclusively solitary predators.
“Group hunting is widespread among mammals. But that’s actually pretty rare with fish, ”said de Santana. “Only nine other fish species are known to have it.”
Santana investigates the mysterious life of the electrofish in South America. His pioneering expeditions in the murky and remote waters of the Amazon found 85 new species. In the past year, the number of known electric eel species has tripled. That number hadn’t changed in about 250 years.
One of the new types of electric eel featured in their 2019 article is the Volta electric eel (Electrophorus voltai). It can deliver 860 volt electric shocks, the most powerful electric shock of any animal on earth. It’s also 210 volts higher than the previous record. It can reach lengths of 2.5 meters. And it is also the nature behind social hunting strategy that is at the heart of De Santana’s new research.
“If 10 of them are discharged at the same time, they could theoretically produce up to 8,600 volts of electricity,” said de Santana. Since electric eels hunt in a herd, this is very likely. “That’s roughly the same voltage as it takes to power 100 lamps.”