12 Animals Who Actually Use Electricity
Get charged up to meet critters who can generate and detect electricity. You may be - wait for it - shocked!
These adorable egg-laying mammals use structures called electroreceptors in their snouts for a good cause: to find food. They can pick up on the electrical impulses given off by prey like insects and worms.
In addition to laying eggs, having a bill and being equipped with venomous spines, the wonderfully unique platypus can also detect electricity. Like his close relative the echidna, the platypus also has electroreceptors on his snout that help detect electric impulses from potential meals. This ability serves the platypus well, as he often hunts in deep water where prey may not be easy to see.
These little-known spiny fish have peepers that pack a punch. The stargazer has modified eye muscles that give off an electric current - essentially shocking and immobilizing his prey. It helps fend off predators too.
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).
5. 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.
Have you ever wondered how geckos are able to climb smooth surfaces? The gecko's Spider-Man 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.
7. Elephant nose fish
Despite his name, the elephant nose fish does not have a prehensile trunk. Rather, that protrusion is a long chin, which the fish uses to detect the electrical impulses of prey. These fish are so skilled in their electroreception that they can find food even when it's pitch-dark.
8. Oriental hornets
He may sound like he's straight out of a comic book, but the Oriental hornet indeed gets his electric superpowers from the sun. This incredible insect has specialized yellow tissues that can absorb sunlight, as well as brown tissues that generate electricity. The hornet uses this electricity as a power source - and is the only known animal that can convert sunlight into energy. Scientists made their surprising discovery after noticing that the Oriental hornet was active during times when the sun was most intense - an unusual trait for his kind.
Spiders coat their web with a special kind of glue that's attracted to charged particles (such as flying insects). The attraction is so strong that these lifeless webs will actually move forward to stick to flying prey. These webs are also attracted to airborne pollutants, meaning that spiders help make the air cleaner in addition to eradicating house pests.
Sharks have specialized receptors on their snouts called ampullae of Lorenzini. These receptors help the shark detect electric fields given off by potential meals. This can come in handy in the deep blue sea, where prey may be far away or camouflaging themselves.
11. Guiana dolphins
Guiana dolphins may seem like simple, playful creatures, but when you look into their past, things get pretty hairy - literally. That's because these dolphins are born with whiskers on their snouts! These whiskers fall off eventually, but the pits that these whiskers were once anchored to (called vibrissal crypts) are used to sense the electric fields emitted by prey. Like the shark, the receptors in a Guiana dolphin's snout also have a kind of gel that allows him to detect the presence of possible food. Each crypt is surrounded by blood vessels and connected to the trigeminal nerve, a special nerve that carries sensory information to the dolphin's brain.
12. Electric eels
A list of animals that use electricity would not be complete without electric eel. These magnificent creatures inhabit ponds and streams in the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America, but their name is misleading; electric eels are not eels at all, and are more closely related to catfish. Electric eels have electrogenic cells that they use to stun prey, defend against predators and even communicate with other electric eels. With a strong enough shock to cause heart failure after repeated jolts, it wouldn't be such a good idea to approach this living lightning rod. In fact, it would be eel-advised.