Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Biologist reaches into electric eel tank, comes out with equation to measure shocks

Biologist reaches into electric eel tank, comes out with equation to measure shocks

Predator-prey interactions I think are
really interesting. In part because they’re really you might almost call it
a crucible for evolution it’s a very high-stakes interaction. One of the
things about this electric eel’s biology is that essentially it’s a battery
immersed in water. And that means when it’s trying to shock something that’s
nearby a lot of that power is just distributed throughout the water which
is great if you’re trying to shock a fish. But if a potential predator is
reaching in to attack the eel it’s a not an efficient way to deliver power. So the
solution that the eel has come up with is to come out of the water
connect itself directly to that threat and give it sort of a large jolt of all,
almost all of its power so it’s a very efficient deterrent for a potential
threatening animal. The predator that might go after the eel. And so I was
working out what are the different components of this circuit that develops
as the eel comes out of the water to shock something that that threatens it,
essentially maybe a predator. And basically what I did was design this
container that allowed my hand to go into a water-filled chamber that was
insulated from this water container but was connected to the main body of water
which allowed the current to flow back to the eels tail. And so essentially by
having my hand in here when the eel left on my arm I was able to measure the
current that would flow through my arm back to the water and then back to the
yield of complete the circuit. The other thing that’s interesting about the way
this electricity is delivered is it comes in pulses. In this case what the
eel is doing when it emerges and directly electrifies an animal is most
certainly activating the pain receptors pretty intensively and pretty
efficiently. Anybody who’s worked on a farm accidentally walked into the
electric fence it’s about like that it’s not really gonna hurt you long term but
you’re gonna know it and you’re probably not gonna walk into the fence again.

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