Aquila Children's Magazine The Electric Issue - Page 13

IN RIVERS AND LAKES Electric eel Did you know the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) isn’t actually an eel at all? It is actually a type of knife fish! Living throughout the Amazon basin, these are some of the most infamous electric animals, capable of generating extremely high electric shocks to stun or even kill their prey. Electric eels have thousands of electrocytes in their thick muscular tails all lined up like batteries in a torch. They can grow to well over 2 m in length and can generate over 600 volt bursts – that’s 50 times the shocking power of a car battery! Elephantnose fish Despite its name, that is not its nose – it’s actually an elongated chin! This specialised organ is called the Schnauzenorgan (pronounced shh-now-zen-organ – what a word! Ed) and it is covered in tiny electroreceptors to detect prey hiding deep in the silty river bed. This isn’t the only trick up the elephantnose’s… erm… sleeve (chin – please stop mixing up body parts, ed). It has a specially adapted muscle near its tail that it can use to produce a weak electric field. With this, the fish can sense movement in the water around them and navigate their way home in total darkness. They also use their electrical abilities to communicate and find a mate. But it’s not just fish that have mastered the use of electricity….. Did you know the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) can hunt with precision at night with their eyes, ears and nostrils closed? How they do this remained a mystery and baffled scientists for many years. Upon closer inspection it was discovered that a platypus’ duck-like bill is covered in nearly 40,000 electroreceptors. These are arranged in a series of stripes to help it hone in on its prey whilst digging in the bottom of streams. Deep This organ is so sensitive it allows the elephantnose fish (Gnathonemus petersii) to tell the difference between living and dead bugs buried up to 2 cm deep. They live in gloomy rivers and have such poor eyesight that they can also use the Schnauzenorgan to determine distance, material and the shape and size of an object – now that’s a clever nose (sorry, chin, ed)! 13