Shocking Animals That Can Generate And Detect Electricity
Platypuses A platypus’ bill is covered in nearly 40,000 electricity sensors – or electroreceptors – arranged in a series of stripes, which helps them localize prey. All animals produce electric fields due to the activity of their nerves and muscles. So when the platypus digs in the bottom of streams with its bill, its electroreceptors detect these tiny currents, allowing it to tell living prey from inanimate objects.
Bees A flower’s bright petals and fragrance aren’t the only things that attract bees. Flowers often experience a change in electric charge after they’ve been visited, so by sensing electric fields, bees can decide whether a flower is worth investigating (or if someone got there before them).
Electric Rays Electric rays have kidney-shaped organs capable of generating electric shocks. These fish use electricity to zap predators and catch prey. These rays can actually control the intensity of their electric shocks, sending out relatively low doses to serve as a warning to curious predators and high doses to stun their lunch.
Geckos Have you ever wondered how geckos are able to climb smooth surfaces? The gecko’s climbing abilities are due in part to the electrostatic forces on the gecko’s toe pads. The difference in charge between his feet and the surface he’s climbing help the little guy stay anchored to the wall.
Oriental Hornets These insects are solar-powered: their striped exoskeleton is capable of transforming energy from the sun into electricity. Oriental Hornets have pigments in yellow tissues that trap light, while brown tissues generate electricity – and they are the only known animal that can convert sunlight into energy. Scientists aren’t sure how they use the electricity, but they may use it to cool or warm their bodies. Or, the electricity might give their wing muscles an energy boost, like a charged battery.
Sharks All sharks and rays can detect electric fields, thanks to the hundreds to thousands of tiny pores on their heads that are filled with an electrically conductive jelly. This skill is handy in the deep blue sea, where prey may be far away or camouflaging themselves. Sharks’ electrosense appears to be the most sensitive in the animal kingdom, capable of detecting voltage gradients as small as one billionth of a volt.
Electric Eels Despite its name and serpentine appearance, the electric eel is not an eel at all, but rather a type of electric fish. Like other electric fish, they’re nearly always producing low-voltage pulses to sense their environment. But they are more infamous for their ability to generate extremely high-voltage shocks to stun or kill prey and defend themselves. Electric eels can grow to over eight feet long and weigh nearly 50 pounds. An eel this size can emit a burst of over 600 volts, five times the voltage of a standard U.S. wall socket. (Source: National Geographic)