Electric Eels Make Lethal Leaping Attacks

A 200-year old myth is a myth no longer – scientists have confirmed that electric eels can indeed jump out of the water and deliver a lethal shock to whatever unlucky animal – or person – chose to reach for the eel.


On a field trip to the Amazon in the nineteenth century, a biologist claimed to have seen electric eels burst out of the water to attack his horses. The shock they delivered was supposedly powerful enough to shock the horse to death, a feat that his peers could not believe. He certainly wasn’t able to catch a video on his iPhone of the leaping eels, so his claim remained unproven for centuries.

Electric Eel - Photo by Steven G. Johnson

New research findings show that he was NOT exaggerating or making the story up.

Using fake human arms and crocodile heads inserted into a shallow pool with an electric eel swimming around, scientists easily saw that they did not shy away from jumping out of the water to make their electrical attack.


When an eel delivers an electrical shock to stun its prey while under water, the electricity successfully shocks its prey, allowing the eel to approach and devour it without any trouble. However, when a shock is delivered outside of water, directly to the surface of prey, the direct contact with the electrical shock is enough to completely kill the prey.

The lesson here? Definitely don’t go fishing for electric eels with your bare hands. If the nineteenth century Amazonian field-tripper was right about the leaping eels, then he was probably also not lying about the part where the eels’ electric shock killed his horses.


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