Eel Team Six

Eel looking at the camera

Teamwork makes the dream work!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

What’s your favorite team sport? Whatever it is, team sports involve not just great players, but great teamwork. Fish, on the other hand, are not known for their teamwork. No one’s heard of a fish sport team!

Bastos Douglas at the National Institute of Amazonian Research in Brazil and international colleagues challenge this. They dove into solving this question. Literally! They took a dip in the Iriri River in Brazil to study a group of electric eels. Douglas’s team took notes on the eels every thirty minutes over a whole day. Just like us during the pandemic, the eels’ day was pretty repetitive.

But things changed around mealtime. The eels got together and herded a large group of fish into a circle. ZAP! Around ten of the eels electrocuted their prey at the same time! The prey are knocked out from the group zapping!

These smart eels know how to get their food! Working in a team gets them their dream meal!

Well, I am o-FISH-ally SHOCKED! And as everybody knows, there’s no “I” in FISH – I mean, in “EEL!”

Reference: Bastos, D.A., Zuanon, J., Rapp Py‐Daniel, L., & de Santana, C.D. (2021). Social predation in electric eels. Ecol Evol. 11(3), 1088-1092.