Shocking discovery! World's most powerful electric eel found in Amazon
The findings are evidence, researchers say, of the incredible diversity in the Amazon rainforest -- much of it still unknown to science -- and illustrate why it is so important to protect a habitat at risk from deforestation, logging and fires.
In pic: This undated photo provided by researchers in September 2019 shows an Electrophorus voltai, one of the two newly discovered electric eel species, in Brazil's Xingu River.
Understanding electric eel
For centuries, it was believed that a single species existed throughout the region known as Greater Amazonia, encompassing parts of countries including Brazil, Suriname and Guyana.
But as part of a project to better understand electric eels and map wildlife in remote parts of South America, de Santana and his team decided to test that conventional wisdom.
Strong electric shock
And they suggest that the particularly strong electric shock that E. voltai can produce could be an adaptation to life in highland waters, where conductivity is less effective.
Electric eels use their shock tactics for a variety of reasons, including hunting prey, self-defence, and navigation.
They generate electricity from three specialised electric organs that can emit charges of varying strengths for different purposes.
Typical electric eel highland habitat
De Santana hopes to compare the genomes of the three species, searching for clues that could offer insights useful to a variety of fields.
"Electric eel physiology inspired the design of Volta's first electric battery, provided a basis... for treating neurodegenerative diseases and recently promoted the advance of hydrogel batteries that could be used to power medical implants," he said.
The newly discovered species may reveal a "hidden variety" of functions "of interest to the broader scientific community."
In pic: This undated photo provided by researchers shows typical electric eel highland habitat in Suriname's Coppename River.