New research has validated a 200 year-old story that electric eels can leap out of water and shock a horse to death. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: This is a behavior that hasn't been witnessed in more than 200 years - eels leaping out of water to attack. A series of experiments at Vanderbilt University have proven that an account made by Alexander von Humboldt, a 19th century biologist, was indeed fact not fiction. During a field trip to the Amazon basin in 1800, Humboldt originally described how electric eels would leap out of the water and delivery enough voltage to shock a horse to death. Since then there has been no scientific recordings of the behavior, leaving many to believe that the famous naturalist may have been exaggerating. But now biologist Ken Catania has not only validated the original account but found evidence that leaping eels are even scarier than Humboldt realized. When the eel is submerged, the power of its electrical pulses is distributed throughout the water, leaving it target in a state of shock, but out of water the electrical salvo zaps a target directly, intensifying the attack. To visualize the effect, Catania covered a plastic arm and plastic crocodile head with a conductive metal strip and a network of LEDs that light up brightly during an attack. The lesson here - both in and out of water - eels are terrifying.