Electric eels hunt in packs, deliver supercharged jolts to attack prey

By 9News Staff - 7 hours ago


Electric eels herd prey balls then zap them out of the water.

A research expedition in the Amazon has revealed electric eels actually hunt in large packs and work together to deliver a supercharged jolt of energy to attack and disable their prey.


Video uploaded yesterday in the Ecology and Evolution journal on the Wiley Online Library site shows detailed observations over the past almost 10 years.


The first video evidence of how the eels operate was captured at a small lake on the banks of Brazil's Iriri River back in 2012.



Electric eels targeting prey balls in Amazon 

Electric eels hunt in large packs and work together to deliver a supercharged jolt of energy to attack and disable their prey. (9News)

Electric eels targeting prey balls in Amazon 

The jolt is so powerful, the fish can be catapulted out of the water and left paralysed on the surface, helpless and ready for eating. (9News)

READ MORE: Loch Ness monster may have been giant eels


Since then, researchers have continued returning to the site to study the eel's hunting behaviour – which revealed some surprising results.


The method involves up to 100 electric eels circling around schools of small tetra fish to form a "prey ball."


The eels then herd the smaller fish toward shallower waters, before they splinter off into smaller groups of about 10 and move in closer to the "prey ball" to deliver a supercharged jolt of electricity.


David de Santana, a zoologist at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC, and co-author of the new study, said the synchronised blast is so powerful it blasts some of the fish out of the water and leaves them floating, stunned, back on the surface – becoming an easy target for the eels.


""It's really amazing to find a behaviour like that with eels that are 2.4, 2.5 metres long," Dr de Santana told Live Science.


"One individual eel of this species can produce a high-voltage discharge of 860 volts. So, in theory, 10 electric eels can produce 8,600 - that's a lot." 


The eels break off into smaller packs of 10 to move their prey into balls that then get jolted with a supercharged burst of electricity. (9News)

A clearer image of how tightly packed the fish are herded into a ball prior to the attack. (9News)

READ MORE: 'Bizarre' video shows electric eel leaping out of tank to attack fake alligator head


The findings suggest the attack method is used by the eels when they are hunting a group of prey that is aware of the eels presence.


By working in close proximity to each other, they are able to create more power in the electricity they produce and shock their prey from further away.


The eels the researchers observed were Volta's electric eels (Electrophorus voltai) and they hypothesise that this predatory method may not be practiced by all species.


They believe this technique is more likely used in locations where there is a higher abundance of prey and more shelter for the eels to hide in – such as the Amazon.



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  • Imagine 13 electric eels working together on the field! 

    • This reply was deleted.
      • Lol Pops 

  • FMD!


  • lol

    • Surely you can slip some Trump in this discussion.

      • Lol Slugg Vinny needs no encouragement when it comes to posting about Trump

      • Trump to reclaim the Presidency.

      • Biden will make it better


  • I concur 

  • You can learn a lot from different sources. The world is as big as you want it to be

This reply was deleted.

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