In a remote region of the Amazon, researchers recently discovered that groups of over 100 electric eels (Electrophorus voltai) hunt together, gathering thousands of smaller fish together to concentrate, shock and devour.
This discovery is shocking to researchers as the knife fishes were thought to dine alone, but in the Amazon, hundreds hunt together.
New behavior gives researchers a glimpse of the behavior of electric eels in the wild
An electric eel is able to subdue a small fish with 860-volt jolt. The amount of electricity that 100 eels hunting together will release is estimated to power about 100 light bulbs, which is powerful and scary to think about.
“This is hugely unexpected,” says Raimundo Nonato Mendes-Júnior, a biologist at the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation in Brasilia, Brazil.
“It goes to show how very, very little we know about how electric eels behave in the wild.
” Group hunting is quite rare in fishes, says Carlos David de Santana, an evolutionary biologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. “I’d never even seen more than 12 electric eels together in the field,” he says.
Electric eels in the wild hunt together by isolating large groups of small fish
During the research, de Santana’s team discovered that the nearly 2-meter-long eels lethargically lay in deeper waters during much of the day.
At dusk and dawn, these long streaks of black come together, moving in unison to form a writhing circle of over 100 strong that gathers thousands of smaller fish into shallower waters.
After gathering the prey, the eels separate into smaller groups of about 10. They then unleash coordinated electric attacks that can send the shocked fish flying from the water. The then helpless, floating prey make easy pickings for the mass of eels. The whole ordeal lasts about two hours.