Eel Research: Joint predatory attack

Douglas Bastos
January 14, 2021
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Riverbed with sunken trees and eels seen under the water
Douglas Bastos

Electric eels shocking their prey as a group in a coordinated hunting effort. A team of scientists describe this novel behavior in the Jan. 14 issue of the journal Ecology and Evolution. The findings overturn the idea that these serpentine fish are exclusively solitary predators and open the door to new questions about how these little-understood fish live.

With the tetras trapped by the main group, bands of two to 10 eels would separate, move in closer and then launch joint electric attacks on the prey ball. The electric shocks sent the tetras flying out of the water, but when they splashed down, the small fish were stunned and motionless. Finally, the attacking eels and their compatriots easily picked off their defenseless prey. Each dawn or dusk hunting ritual took around one hour and contained between five to seven high-voltage attacks.

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