It’s Shocking! Watch This Electric Eel’s Airborne Attack


More than 200 years ago, the great German scientist Alexander von Humboldt documented how electric eels in the Amazon leaped out of the water to attack larger animals. However, with no further observations of this behavior, scientists began to grow skeptical of his account, until it was eventually dismissed as a flight of 19th-century scientific imagination.

In 2015, Vanderbilt University biologist Kenneth Catania rediscovered this stunning behavior. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in 2016, he detailed how the eels use this incredible leaping attack to increase the amount of power that passes through their victims’ bodies.

Catania explains that, while submerged, the water around the eel reduces the effect of its electrical discharge. However, when the eel leaps out of the water to attack a larger animal, more electricity runs through the victim’s body, increasing the effectiveness of the attack and turning the eel into a virtual, predator-deterring electric fence.

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Discover another mysterious side of eel life by watching this video of transparent eel larvae stunningly swimming through the water.

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A. Stout is a Whovian, Potterhead, study abroad alumna, and animal lover. A native to West Michigan, she dreams of publishing novels and traveling all over the world.