Scientists have discovered the secrets behind electric fish, using genetic studies that revealed how these they developed an organ that can unleash a tryly shocking jolt.
Researchers unveiled a genetic blueprint of the electric eel - a fearsome creature that can zap you with an electric field of up to 600 volts - as well as detailed genetic data on two other types of electric fish.
Even though six groups of electric fish have evolved independently in far-flung places like the Amazon and murky marine environments, they all seem to have reached into the same "genetic toolbox" to fashion their electricity-generating organ, they said.
The new study found that various electric fish rely on the same genes and biological pathways to build their electric organs from skeletal muscle despite the different appearance and body location of their organs. Their electrical abilities stand as one of the wonders of nature alongside traits like bioluminescence in some insects and sea creatures and echolocation in bats and whales.
Water is a conductor of electricity while air is not. Thus, birds or terrestrial animals could not come up with this.
There are hundreds of species of electric fish worldwide, with varying degrees of electric power, but NO Birds.
Fish with weak electric power use it to navigate in dim waters and communicate with one another. Those like the electric eel - a serpentine freshwater predator up to 8 feet long (2.4 meters) that is not a true eel but rather a catfish relative - possessing a powerful jolt use it to stun or kill prey and repel enemies. Scientists have wondered about how these fish first acquired electric powers and how this characteristic emerged six times in groups not closely related to one another.
Electric organs start out their lives as muscle precursor cells. Through a series of developmental steps, they become larger, more electrically excitable and lose their ability to contract.
Certain fish exploited that by transforming ordinary muscle cells into a larger type of cell called an electrocyte that generates vastly higher voltages. The electric organ is made of these cells.