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Planet's most powerful 850 volt electric eel discovered in Amazon basin

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Christian Fernsby |
Electrophorus voltai
World   Electrophorus voltai

The planet's most powerful electric eel has been discovered lurking in the waters of the Amazon basin.

Electrophorus voltai can deliver an 850 volt shock, scientists have learned, well above the previous known high of 650 volts.

To put that into perspective, defibrillators commonly zap heart failure patients with anything between 200 volts and 1,700 volts.

E.voltai is one of two new species of eel in the Amazon, tripling the number of known electric eels.

“These fish grow to be seven to eight feet long. They’re really conspicuous,” said lead researcher David de Santana at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Smithsonian scientists have been collaborating with researchers at the University of São Paulo’s Museum of Zoology in Brazil and other institutions around the world to explore the diversity of the eels and other electric fishes in South America.

E.voltai primarily lives further south on the Brazilian Shield, a similar highland region.

Electrophorus varii, the other new species, named after the late Smithsonian ichthyologist Richard Vari, swims through murky, slow-flowing lowland waters.


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