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The Ocean Reporter's
Sand & Surf
Encyclopedia File

EEL Have you ever wondered how the writers came up with their fabled 20 foot electric eel for the entertaining episode Eel Nino (Episode Reference: 8.8)? The size of the creature and how much current it carried were HUGE exagerations. Well, their ideas were drawn from both fact and fiction. There is no such thing as a true electric eel as the world's population is lead to believe. So, where did they get the idea? It's quite simple, really. They took the electric current traits of an electric fish and added those features of a moray eel, which is from the first suborder, Anguilloidei. Most species of eel are less than 3 feet long (1m). However it is a known fact that out of all of the species of eel that grow 3 feet and longer, as the conger eel (Conger Conger) grows up to 9 feet long (3m). And that is a HUGE eel.

Eels are specified as any elongated, sepent-like fish, but specifically members of the main order Anguilliformes, consisting of more than 600 different species. Grouped into about 19 families within two suborders. The first suborder, Anguilloidei, which includes fresh water eel, snake eel, worm eel, conger and moray. The other suborder, the Saccopharyngoidei, includes forms of adapted to life at depths as great as 10,000 feet (3000m) as gulper eel, swallower eel and more bizarre and modified fishes. 

Eels inhabit marine and fresh waters worldwide and most do not have scales. Their dosal and anal fins may extend along most of the body and be continuous with the tail fin. Undulating motions of these fins or whole body provide thrust for swimming. Most species are less than 3 feet long (1m).  

Anguillidae eels live in fresh water as adults and return to the open ocean to spawn. They have dense capillary systems close to the skin that can absorb oxygen directly from air or water. The eels hatch from eggs as Leptocephali, which are transparent, super thin leaf-like larvae which have little resemblance to the adults. They drift in the ocean for three years, feeding on plankton, then metamorphose into round-bodied eels called elvers or grass eels. They feed on fish and invertebrates until they reach full size. 

Similar European eel (Anguilla anguilla) and the American eel (A. Rostrata) reach maturity in freshwater lakes and rivers. They take watercouses, sometimes swimming overland through dewy grass, to reach the ocean. There, they swim or drift with currents as long as a year until they reach sluggish, weed-filled sairgasso. Here they spawn in deep water and before dying, the female produces as many as 20 million free-floating eggs. 

The Leptocephali drift with the gulf stream, taking one year to reach North America and three years to reach Europe. By this time they have become elvers accumulate at the mouths of the river in great masses. The yellow elvers swim upstream and feed on lake-and river-bottom animals until they become black and silver bodied adults, completing the cycle. 

ELECTRIC EEL (also known as ELECTRIC FISH/Electrophorus Electricus, from the family of Electrophoridae) Not true eels, they are referred to by their common name, Electric Fish. They are born in the Orinoco River and the rivers of the Amazon basin in South America. The average small electric eel is capable of developing 75 volts per inch. The cells are concentrated in the tail, which occupies about four fifths of the total length of the fish. Although large electric eels have fewer nerve ending cells per unit of length, each cell is larger. They emit charges of 450-600 volts. Electric eels have a small pilot organ which continually emit electricity as well as a higher voltage organ that supplies most of the power to the interminttent discharges. It is capable of stunning large animals. Their discharge serve them in several ways. Mainly to stun or detect prey and obstacles, for self-defense and for navagation. If organs are exhausted from numerous discharges in short interval, it will not function until they have had sufficent rest.

ELECTRIC FISH The common name for several unrelated fish that emit electrical discharges through groups of highly compact nerve endings. The most important fishes are Electric Catfish, Electric Eels and Electric Rays.

ELECTRIC CATFISH (Malapterurus Electricus) The Catfish live in the Congo and Nile waters. The catfish emits a weaker discharge. Shock organs are membranes of nerve endings that extend over the entire back.

ELECTRIC EEL (Electrophorus Electricus/from the family of Electrophoridae) Eels have the most powerful charge of all electric fish. They are born in the Orinoco River and the rivers of the Amazon basin in South America. Small eels have a charge of 75V of power per inch. Large eels have fewer nerve ending cells per init of length, but each cell is larger. This allows the larger species to emit charges of 450-600V of power. Eels use their power to stun their prey or for self defense. They also use it in detection of prey and obstacles and navagation. If organs are exhausted from numerous discharges in short interval, it will not function until they have had sufficient rest. They are capable of stunning large animals.

ELECTRIC RAY (Torpedinidae) Rays are found in oceans in many parts of the world. They have two electric discharge organs between the head and pectorial fins. 


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