Throughout all continents, scientists annually discover new animal and plant species, from miniature insects, through reptiles to mammals. In the Amazon they recently discovered a new species of giant electric eel, named Electrophorus voltai, which generates 860 volts – currently a fish with the ability to generate the greatest electrical voltage ever known.

This discovery is also interesting, according to biologists. It shows how enormous the biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest is and how little we know about this increasingly vulnerable area.

“Despite all the impact of human activity on the Amazon over the past 50 years, we can still discover giant fish such as these new types of electric eels,” said zoologist David Santana, who led the research.

Two New Species

Scientists have found it through DNA research, which revealed two new species in the Amazon. Currently there are 3 kinds of electric eels in the Amazon. Two species are newly discovered – Electrophorus voltai and Electrophorus varii. Before the discovery of Electrophorus voltai, the largest 650 volts discharge was measured at Electrophorus electricus, which would have stunned the horse. It follows that electric eels are dangerous to humans.

The newly discovered eel can generate up to 860 volts and is the largest eel, growing up to 1.7 meters in length. E. electricus grows to 1 meter. This research was published in the Nature Communications journal.

Why 860 Volts?

Researchers speculate that all three species had a common ancestor and evolved millions of years ago. Today, the populations of all three species are distinctly geographically divided: E. electricus lives in the Guiana Highlands, E. voltai in the mountains of Brazil and E. varii in slow-flowing lowlands.

They also have a hypothesis that might explain why the newly discovered eel species has such a strong discharge: it lives in mountain waters that have lower conductivity.

Exploring electric eels in South America was a big surprise for biologists. So far, they have assumed that there is only one kind of electric eel.

„If we don’t know about the diversity of species alive today, we risk losing knowledge that could be valuable to us“, says de Santana. “When a species becomes extinct, so does the health and safety of every human because these species are genetic warehouses that may have a cure for disease,” he adds.

E. voltai generates a bigger voltage than any other bioelectric animal.

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