Electric fishes

   About 50 kinds of fishes give electric shocks to animals that come in contact with them. These fishes are called electric fishes. The shocks they give help them to get food and to protect themselves from their enemies.

electric eel
electric eel
   The electric eel is a well-known electric fish. This fish is not really an eel. It gets its name because it is slender like an eel. Many electric eels grow to a length of eight feet and a weight of 50 pounds. Electric eels are found in the Amazon and Orinoco rivers in South America.
   The electric batteries, or shocking organs, are along both sides of the eel. The shock they give is said to be strong enough to stun a horse. It is the most powerful shock found among the electric fishes. Each battery is made up of tiny six-sided sections. Nerves run from these sections to the brain. If these nerves are cut, no shock is given.

   The rays are broad, much-flattened fish­es. The electric ray, or torpedo, found in warm seas is another well-known electric fish. It may grow to a length of five feet and a width of three feet. The batteries of the electric ray are on the sides of the fish's head. They are much like the batteries of the electric eel.

   The little electric fish called the stargazer has its shocking organs on the top of its head. A stargazer often lies half buried in the sand and waits f or some small animal to come along. The electric shock the small animal gets when it touches the stargazer paralyzes it and makes it easy eating for the fish. The stargazers are seldom more than a foot long. Like the tor­pedees, they are found in warm seas.

   The electric catfish, which grows to be about three feet long, is found in fresh water in Africa. This fish gives a powerful shock, almost as strong as the shock of the electric eel. But its shocking organs are quite different from those of the eel. They form a kind of greasy layer just under the skin. The fish can give off a number of very short shocks. Then it must eat and rest before it can continue its shocking habit. This fish has been found in Egyptian pictures that are more than 4,000 years old.