What Were Electric Eels Called Before Electricity? Answered

Are you looking for What Were Electric Eels Called Before Electricity? Thomas Jefferson informed John Adams in an 1803 letter about an electric eel experiment he conducted (a species of fish called gymnotus electricus). For millennia, electric fish were once again reported.

In a book titled “the natural history of new york,” the word “electric eel” first appeared in literature in 1801. They were initially known as knife fish or bare fish webs. Linnaeus gave the term “electrophorus electricus,” which does not translate to “electric eel,” to the web.

What Were Electric Eels Called Before Electricity?

It was referred to as “poraquê” in Tupi, which signified “that which numbs” or “that which makes slumber” in the language. It is still a name used in Brazil to denote eels from rivers in the Amazon rainforest.

Electric Eels Called Before Electricity

Electric Eels

A sea animal known as an “electric eel” can produce an electrical discharge of 600 volts. They depend on these high-voltage discharges to lead them and kill their prey because they live in murky water.

Although this particular fish is a member of the Anguilliformes family, it is not regarded as an actual eel. Contrary to their name, electric eels lack a dorsal fin. Instead, they have expanded, lengthy anal fins.

Electric eels burst out of the water while utilizing their tail to create an electrical current, shocking humans and other animals. This strategy has effectively kept predators away from them, making them a common threat to human civilization.

One of its best qualities is that it can shock someone with electricity. They can immediately shock a partially submerged animal by springing out of the water and utilizing their head as a lung.

Electric eels are recognized for their capacity to shock their prey to death, and their name is derived from electricity. Due to their weak vision, they have developed the ability to locate their prey using their electric abilities.

These eels emit three different kinds of electrical pulses, according to scientists. Short, high-voltage pulses are employed for hunting, while low-voltage pulses are used for electrolocation. These electric eels follow the electrical field while attacking, focusing on their crippled target.

Where Are The Electric Eels Found?

These fish have their natural habitat in northern South America. They are most frequently found in Brazil, the Guianas, Suriname, Venezuela, Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru.

They favor placid waters in flooded woodlands, ponds, streams, and oxbow lakes. They live in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers’ tributaries. Yet, electric eels must be adaptive because their habitats change with the seasons.

Where Are The Electric Eels Found

The seasons of drought and flooding in the rainforests cause the water to ebb and rise. The eels frequently become trapped in little streams and ponds during the dry season. Rivers rise during the wet season, allowing lakes and ponds to reconnect.

Electric Eels: Are These Eels?

Although we refer to them as eels, and they have an eel-like appearance, they are not eels. They are less related to real eels and more connected to catfish and carp. Although frequently mistaken for an eel, the National Aquarium notes this fish is not a “genuine” eel.

The electric eel belongs to the order Gymnotiformes, the knife fishes, whereas true eels are categorized in Anguilliformes. Knife fishes have a large, elongated anal fin and no dorsal fin.

Fish With Gymnostomes

An assortment of Gymnotiform fish is called “electric eels” in common parlance. When the electric current in the water contacts these animals, electricity is produced. As the larva develops, the mEO (macro electro-oscillator) grows inside the tail muscle.

A pair of electrolytes, or nEOs, eventually replace the degenerating mEO. The mEO expands to full extension as the fish ages and develops longitudinally along the tail muscle.

Gymnotiform fish are thought to be able to produce electrical discharges, even though there is no concrete evidence that they did so before electricity was created. Most Gymnotiform species, including those in the family Apteronotidae, have a specific electrical organ.

These electric organs contain electrolytes, cells that work through action potentials. Since the mEO and the neurogenic electric organ are more sensitive to electrical signals, how they work is now known.

Gymnotiforms have electric qualities, but they are only faintly electric. Because they generate electricity as larvae, they are sometimes known as electric eels. Eel discharge comes in a variety of forms, including monophasic and biphasic. The moniker “electric eel” fits them well because of this. These fish were frequently called “electric eels” in the early days of electric current.


Oceans with temperate or tropical climates are home to the electric ray, sometimes called torpedo. Its Latin name, which means “numb” or “paralyzed,” dates back to the time of the Ancient Romans. While identifying the electric rays in 1758, Linnaeus employed this Latin term. Hence, the word “TORPEDO” was created.

Using the torpedo ray, Benjamin Franklin and his associates planned several tests in 1775. The first and last “subjects” touched the eel’s opposing ends as they stood in a circle while holding hands.

The initial and final “subjects” had contact with many materials, including silk, wood, brass chains, and iron rods. Although the investigations resulted in an electrical discharge, the assistants were dubious about its electrical nature.

Electrical eels were known by a variety of names before electricity was invented. They were referred to as torpedo before electricity was developed. Their capacity to emit high-voltage pulses with a two-ms interval gave rise to their moniker.

Michael Faraday prophesied in 1838 that electric eels would be able to engage in ship-to-ship combat utilizing the electrical energy they generate. Even though the phrase is unclear now, his prognosis was amazingly accurate.


Most likely, when you hear the term “electric eel,” you picture a giant serpent that may reach lengths of eight feet and weigh 45 pounds. They have scaleless bodies and live in warm, muddy waters. Their sides and backs are gray as they enlarge. They have an orange or yellow belly.

They were called catfish in the days before electricity. Scientists at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C, examined one hundred-seven electric eel specimens. The group concluded that there are three different species.

The eel was known as a catfish before electricity was found; this was its popular name before receiving a scientific designation. It was found in the 1700s when electrical science became more well-known. Electrophorus electricus is the scientific name for the electric eel, which Linnaeus gave in 1766. This discovery changed the history of electric eels.

Electric eels were once known as catfish before electricity was found. Because they employed their electric abilities for both self-defense and hunting, these predatory fish were known as catfish in the past.

You might be curious to discover more about these unique species, whose extraordinary powers may have developed via evolution. Remember to tell others what you learn! You’ll be happy that you did!

The Gymnotiform Eel

The Gymnotiform eel, often called the South American knife fish, Neotropical eel, and even human electrolytes is a species of the electric eel. This family possesses specialized electric organs that can electrocute by discharging electricity into the water.

The two primary categories of these electrolytes are those with neurogenic organs and those without. “Electric fish” refers to aquatic organisms that generate an electrical field. Many other fish can passively perceive electrical fields in water, but only electric fish can actively sense them.

The Gymnotiforms can create their own electrical field to communicate with one another. This is only one of the many reasons they can hunt successfully at night and survive in murky water. They can use these electrical fields to communicate their identities or moods.

This electric eel may grow to a length of 2.5 meters and contains three electric organs. It uses these organs for both defense and predation. Its energy storage capacity has yet to be discovered. However, it is assumed to be in the range of 100 watts.

The study’s initial author is Carlos David de Santana, who is also the article’s first author. The study was taken out as a component of a more extensive investigation of the evolution of Gymnotiformes. Professor Naercio Menezes from the University of Sao Paulo Zoology Museum is the other co-author.

Eel Of Vari

The Venezuelan indigenous people used to refer to the Vari’s eel as arimna before electricity was developed. A “numb eel” was how early European naturalists described the eel. It is a native of the Amazon River and the only species in its genus.

It comes in two varieties: the Volta’s eel inhabits the southern region of Amazonia, and the electric eel, also known as Linnaeus’s eel, lives in swiftly moving oxygen-depleted waters.

Alessandro Volta, an Italian physicist, is the name given to the electric eel. It can be found in electrically conductive rivers because of their murky waters and large concentrations of dissolved salts. Voltage levels of its discharges range from 151 to 572 volts. Even though it’s the smallest amount of energy an animal can generate, it nonetheless stuns its prey.

Electric currents might be generated in the eel’s body thanks to scientific advancements made throughout the advent of electricity. The electric eel generates a short-lived current, which implies that it can stop generating current after it has completely discharged. By creating batteries for prosthetic devices, electric eels could be helpful for human health. They are currently being researched for usage in sensors and batteries for prosthetic limbs.

Eel Of Volta

But, it’s not a mystery how the electric eel generates electricity. Three electrical organs on the eel are used to paralyze predators. Its experts looked at DNA, morphology, ambient information, and discharged voltage to create a new categorization.

The eel was given the scientific name “Electrophorus electricus” in honor of Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, who, in 1799, invented the electric battery and based it on the electric eel.

Although the names of these electric eels’ species are frequently debated, it is evident that they all descended from a single creature. The Vari’s eel and the Linnaeus’s eel are two populations of the ancient eel. The latter species is only found in the southern region of Amazonia, whereas the former lives on rapidly flowing, oxygen-poor floodplains.

Research reveals that the Volta’s electric eel is a highly cooperative species capable of creating significant amounts of electricity, contrary to the widespread belief that it is merely a solitary fish. The Iriri River’s little fish might be stunned by the eels by circling them before they launch a group attack with high-voltage attacks on the prey ball.


Did you get the answer to What Were Electric Eels Called Before Electricity? Outside the South American electric eel, it should be emphasized that many cultures have encountered a vast range of “electric fish” (like electric catfish in Egypt and China or electric rays in the Mediterranean).

These fish interactions generated numbing effects that were noted and extensively employed as medical treatments in Ancient Rome and China. Indians in South America used electric eels in this manner.

Hippocrates referred to the electrical Mediterranean torpedo as “nark,” which shares the same etymology as the word “narcosis,” which refers to its numbing effects. Naturalists in the Greco-Roman era who attempted to hypothesize the cause of the effect tended to believe it was poisonous.

After the invention of Leyden jars in the 1740s, the definitive link between the discharge of these fish and electricity was made (essential capacitors for storing static electricity). Analyses of these fish and their organs in the 17th century contributed to developing Europe’s knowledge of electricity.

It was hotly contested in the 18th century whether electricity was primarily an animal or physical phenomenon. Alessandro Volta’s first battery was defined by its creator as an “artificial” duplicate of the natural organs of animal electricity found in such fish.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the eel’s other name?

Contrary to popular belief, the electric eel is a type of “fish” and goes by the less frequent name of electrophorus electricus. It belongs to the family Gymnotidae, also known as the electric eel, because of its propensity to emit electric pulses into the water around it.

Why do electric eels die?

The only known predators of electric eels are people who fish them. Regardless of water levels, they pose too much of a threat for other species to pursue. Large terrestrial mammals may chase them if the water is shallow, although this threat is frequently averted with a shock.

Can you still find electric eels?

Although they are shared across their area, electric eels can only be caught with permission for scientific research. Due to their potential harm to local fish and human populations, if they were to stray, certain regions have substantial restrictions that forbid hobbyists from keeping electric eels.

Can an electric eel operate a light bulb?

Wattson may power the lights outside the tank even though it isn’t doing so now. Giant electric eels, a form of knife fish and not true eels, may discharge between 10 and 850 volts in a single burst, easily enough to power many DC 40-watt light bulbs for a brief period.

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