Electric Friends

Did you know there are over 500 kinds of fish that produce electricity? Let's check out the electric eel . . .


Electric eels work like a battery and can discharge from 350 to 650 volts of electricity. The head acts as the positive pole and the tail is the negative pole of the battery. When it is moving it can emit electric impulses up to 25 times per second. A 20-foot eel can produce enough electrical current to light 12 household light bulbs. Electric eels are mainly found in the Amazon. These guys can be dangerous and would not make a good pet.

Some bony fish and sharks have special pores on their heads that allow them to detect electrical currents. This extra sense helps them navigate or find prey in dark or muddy water.

Other creatures, like the lightning bug or firefly, emit a light. It's not electricity but a chemical reaction called "bioluminescence." Light sticks are another example of chemical light. Although the chemicals are different than the chemicals made by bioluminescent creatures, the way they work is the same. These creatures produce two chemicals called luciferin and luciferase (an enzyme). When these chemicals react together they emit a "cold light." The click beetle can project enough light to read by.


Jellyfish are also bioluminescent. Most of them emit a blue light, as blue can be projected farther than any other color. It's pretty dark deep in the ocean, and these creatures can emit light for navigation, mating, communication, self-defense and hunting for prey.