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Sharks and Electricity

What animal do you know of that lives in the salty ocean, has a fin on its back that sticks out of the water when it swims near the surface, has rows and rows of sharp, shiny teeth, and has had scary movies made about it? If you guessed "Shark," you'd be correct.

What animal do you know of that has sense organs on the skin of its nose that have tiny bumps filled with a jelly-like substance, and that can pick up the electrical impulses of fish swimming nearby? If you guessed "Shark" again, you'd also be correct!

Fish give off tiny quivers of a type of electricity as they swim. Sharks can feel these quivers through the sensitive skin on their noses. Sharks don't seem to have very good eyesight, and ocean water can be dark and murky, so they're lucky to have big, sensitive noses!

The most popular electric fish is the electric eel (which is not actually a true eel!) from South America. The electric eel uses special parts of its body to make electricity - about 75 to 100 volts for every foot in length. Most eels grow to 5 or 6 feet in length. So, how many volts would a five-foot eel be able to make? Think 5 X 100 =?

The electric eel can give out a single shock of electricity at a time, then it has to rest. It uses the charge to knock out or stun a smaller animal it wants to eat. Even a young one-foot electric eel is capable of producing an electric shock that could stun a person!

People can see electric eels in aquariums. Aquarium keepers wear thick rubber gloves to handle these eels.

Why rubber gloves? Thick rubber is not a conductor of electricity. The aquarium workers don't want cleaning the eel's tank to become a "shocking experience"!

Electric knife fish live in deep, cloudy parts of the ocean. This knife fish uses its whole body to feel and "see". It has a way of giving off an electric signal that surrounds itself. The whole body of the electric knife fish can feel other fish nearby.

What do you call it when fish swim together in a group? Right, a "school" of fish. The electric knife fish swims in schools with other electric knife fish, but they don't swim too close to each other. When they come too close to another fish that has a strong electric signal, they quickly move away.

The torpedo ray lives in the ocean and has sense organs located on either side of its flat head. The electric catfish lives in some African rivers and has an electric shock organ that runs along its entire back.





Copyright 2011