The Shocking Truth About Electric Animals!


[Intro] Hank Green: What you’re about to see in this
SciShow Dose may shock you. There are about 8600 animals in the world that are electroreceptive.
They can feel electric fields. Like the sense of touch, eletroreceptivity carries information
about the shape, size, and texture of things in the environment, and like hearing or vision,
it works at a distance, but what it actually feels like is something that we will never
be able to even imagine. For electroreceptive animals, electric currents
and electric fields are as real and immediate as color or music are for us. Most electroreceptive
animals are amphibians or fish, though there are rare exceptions, including the duck-billed
platypus, because everything that could possibly be weird about the platypus is weird. Electroreceptivity
has evolved over and over again, totally independently, in a global act of convergent evolution. Animals
that live and hunt in murky water where they might not be able to see or hear very well
gain advantage if they can feel their surroundings through special electroreceptive cells in
their skin. And a few animals take it even further. There are 716 known species of fish
capable of electrogenesis, the creation of electric fields and even strong electric shocks.
And these fish don’t have a common ancestor either. Biologists believe that electrogenesis
has evolved separately at least 11 different times in places as isolated from each other
as the African interior, the Amazon basin, and the coral-rich waters of Australia. The most famous electric fish is the electric
eel, which is electric but is not an eel–it’s actually a kind of knifefish that lives in
South America and can produce an electric shock up to 600 volts–enough to hurt, but
not seriously injure, something as big as a human, but if you’re an itty bitty tiny
fish trying to go about your daily business of swimming and eating and not dying, yeah,
600 volts is the last problem you’ll ever have. All cells in living things produce an electric
charge; it’s a normal part of cell biology. They do this by pumping positive ions of metals
like sodium, potassium, and calcium outside the cell membrane. So the outside of your
cells are slightly positive compared to the insides. Every cell in your body has a resting
voltage of about 0.085 volts. Of course, my cells aren’t organized in a way that would
let me add those voltages together, but this fish have special cells called electrocytes,
they’re stacked in long chains like the batteries inside a flashlight. And each one of those
cells is connected on one side to a nerve fiber. When an electric eel charges up, its
brain sends a signal down those nerve fibers. When the signal hits the electrocytes, little
pores open up in their cell membranes, allowing those positive ions to rush into the cell.
Each cell becomes like a little tiny battery. Instead of having a negative inside and a
positive outside, the cell now has a negative left side and a positive right side. And just
like in a battery, electrons flow between the two ends to equalize the charge. Since
the cells are stacked in chains, positive to negative to positive and so on, the voltage
of each cell adds up with every other cell in the chain. String enough of those chains
together and fire them all at once, and bleaughh, underwater barbecue. But this arrangement of electrocytes doesn’t
have to be used offensively, and in most electric fish, it isn’t. Instead, they create a constant
electric field around themselves, usually with the power of only a few millivolts. They
use this to sense their immediate environments so they know when food or predators are nearby,
even in total darkness. And some species of fish use these electric fields to like, communicate
with each other. Using distinct patterns of discharges, they can signal aggression, submission,
alarm, even courtship. When they’re ready to mate, the males and females of many kinds
of electric fish will perform electric duets. Electric boogie! So if you feel like you’re missing out, you
might be wondering, why didn’t we evolve to create awesome electric fields that we can
control with our minds? Well, because we can see and hear. Seeing and hearing may seem
kind of boring compared to being like, electric fish Magneto, but they use a lot less energy
than electrogenesis. Plus, one of the most common questions people ask about electric
eels is ‘why don’t they electrocute themselves?’ The answer being that they do. When an electric
eel fires, you can actually see it flinch. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll stick
with my senses since they don’t actually cause physical pain to use. Thanks for watching this electrifying SciShow
Dose, and if you’d like to help us keep sharing natural wonders like this, go to
to find out how you can help us keep our batteries charged, and don’t forget to go to
and subscribe. [Endscreen]

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100 thoughts on “The Shocking Truth About Electric Animals!”

  1. camramaster says:

    Some humans are electroreceptive…

  2. Trayfen O'Donnell says:

    Actually…potassium is pumped into the cell via sodium-potassium pump. Not to say there isn't a protein somewhere that pumps potassium out, but the sodium-potassium pump's primary function is to pump 3 sodiums out and 2 potassiums in via ATP. Also I dont think, (at least in mammals) calcium is much of a contender for general cell potential. Unless we are talking about muscle cells and the sarcoplasmic reticulum…thats a different matter. I would probably stopped at sodium and potassium…otherwise, if you going to include calcium I would include chlorine as it contributes more than calcium. Just saying…

  3. Mindaugas Anaitis says:

    From when 600V is not deadly voltage ya dumb Fuck

  4. Eliane Fiset says:


  5. Anna Fraser Jones says:

    electric boogeyyyy

  6. Michael Manosalvas says:

    Hasn't there been a report of an electric eel killing a crocodilian?

  7. Angus Uchiha says:

    But I could, like… electric. And I want to be electric.

  8. Yndostrui says:

    Humans can feel electric fields, too. They just need a magnetic implant… 😛

  9. unknown one Cardantagonist says:

    I don't want to hurt myself trying to find my way around home. So no electro navigation for me.

  10. The Phantom 2018 says:

    3:30 needs to be a gif like today

  11. Scumdog says:

    Isn't the current (amps) more important than the voltage when it comes to getting shocked?

  12. Oleg B says:

    So if I put the power cord (with a dc to dc converter) of my Washing machine into the butt of the electrical eel, It shall power it?

  13. Zedi gan says:

    Eye sight is way cooler than electrogenesis if you call sight "photon detection"

  14. JonatasAdoM says:

    If we were like electroc fish we would need to fill the space with water in order to be able to ven understand it.

  15. Love Me says:

    almost like echolocation

  16. Shawn Flynn says:

    Electric bogey!!!!!!!!!

  17. Uranus InBanana says:

    No puuns

  18. Niroon 64 says:

    So does this mean Pikachu electrocutes itself every time it zaps Team Incompetent, oops I was meant to say Team Rocket.

  19. Rainbow Vader says:

    Animals that evolved the ability to electricoute themselves. I am officially done with Earth, see yall on Mars.

  20. justtrolin says:

    that boogie dance is just nope.

  21. Monstermushmush says:

    i didnt notice the pun in the title until just now

  22. 4Your Soul says:

    Why doesnt it electricute the whole ocean?

  23. Kristopher J.S. Lee says:


  24. what else is on says:

    The real reason humans and other land animals don't have this is because air is a very good electrical insulator while water is conductive.

    However, human skin, hair and shoes are all high up on the triboelectric series. Rub your skin with teflon, your hair with a balloon or just shuffle around on a carpet and then get within a few millimeters of someone else's skin. They will feel something.

  25. ゆParakoi says:

    Im a narwhal for trump

  26. Moni Uddin says:

    Rouge: when they come out does it hurt? Electric eel: everytime

  27. datfox says:

    platypus should be the mongols of sci show

  28. Doge says:

    This was some, shocking information

  29. Itz Julfi says:

    This Truth was Shocking!
    Get it?..

    sorry for my jokes

  30. Lystrung says:

    What is the name of the cool blue/purple looking fish at 3:06 swimming around the head of the eel?

  31. Courtney says:

    Can you do a video on the platypus?

  32. Frozen - Marvel says:

    Electric fish Magneto…lmao! 😀

  33. Sabvina Cruz says:

    Electroplay would be so much easier had we evolved a little more like an eel…

  34. Soup says:

    I liked and commented because of the title. Nice

  35. Saul Steck says:

    So if we had it…. That would be like having extrasensory pretty much. You could just sense people? Wild

  36. QuiveryCorn 570 says:

    3:31 the cringe

  37. LiveitUpLike IfLifesGreat says:

    3:30 lolwut

  38. dulez ninjaman says:

    Scishow: the electric eel is electrifying!

    The rock: HOLD MY BEER

  39. Branden Kroskie says:

    3:31 Almost woke up my lil bro laughing at this.

  40. Branden Kroskie says:

    3:31 pause at any frame during the word "bogey", Screen shot his face and make it your desk top.

    Your evil sense of humor will thank you later when your younger sibling screams his/her head off.

  41. PandasEatBamboo says:

    I believe the platypus is just caught mid evolution

  42. 5mnz7fg says:

    Interesting content but is there any reason for such overacting and exaggerated narration?

  43. cunning wolf says:

    Well this is going to help with my novel, the creatures have electrogenius

  44. Youcant Stopme! says:

    How many could we get to if we could?

  45. Laura 28 says:

    E L E C T R I C B O O G I E

  46. JP Sibbitt says:

    Don't read the comments. Its full of terrible "electric" puns and I'm solenoid with them all.

  47. Ben Goodwin says:

    We should totally put stuff like this in humans via genetic engineering. What could possibly go wrong

  48. Tigerguy000 says:

    Eelectrik, use wild charge

    anyone get the joke?

  49. Glassy Star says:

    Why the puns why

  50. MG BIG99BANK says:

    The title is so stale but kinda funny

  51. Official Vidici says:


  52. A Human Life Form says:

    I'm shocked. Here's some positive feedback. I won't charge you for it. So don't have a negative reaction. Also, good to know you don't have a static amount of subscribers, people connecting all the time. Hope somebody responds to these puns lightning fast. Maybe I'm shockingly impatient, guess that's how I'm wired.

  53. Mabus Beast says:

    Make an episode about why hyenas are not dogs

  54. RoboReptile4 says:

    Why is there not a single picture of an actual electric eel?

  55. Lancaster50 says:

    A knife fish and an electric eel – together in electric dreams.

  56. frog boy says:

    this is bob. copy and paste him so he can take over youtube.


  57. Clayton Payne says:

    Most of the eels shown are salt water…. morays are not electric. Electric eels are fresh water only and are really knife fish.

  58. Aybee M. says:


  59. Adam Hanohano says:

    Instant like for "electric boogie "

  60. Galen Richter says:

    "because anything that can possibly weird about the platypus, is weird" lol, guess he isnt wrong

  61. patrikcath says:


  62. DipshitDoesSomeThings 14 says:

    Oh, so when an electric eel's pores open up it gets to electrocute things, but when my pores open up I get disgusting red bumps on my face. Thanks evolution, you're the best.

  63. DM Bara says:

    I heard the eels can use their feild to control the muscles of prey. Is that a fact?

  64. Karagianis says:

    Well I'd say the other reason we don't have electric senses is we don't live in water. they'd be kind of useless in air since air is a lot less conductive than most aquatic environments (pure water doesn't connect electricity either, but unless you've distilled it there will be plenty of stuff that DOES disolved in the water)

  65. Rhys Logan says:

    " I'll stick to my senses because they don't cause actual physical pain to use". apparently you've never listened to what passes for rap these days

  66. Pete Randall says:

    What about acoustic animals?

  67. Jay Golden says:

    Y isn't Pikachu here?

  68. Alan Malcheski says:

    yeah great so no land animals at all? No electrogenesis on land because.. air, not water? What about invertebrates? Any that could survive in a suit of armor? Think how well you could zap an opponent if they dressed up in armor… pretty well, I'd wager.

  69. Gunslinger454 says:

    Actually electric eels can and do kill adult humans, and they can even kill animals like caiman crocodiles.

  70. Sasha Da Masta says:

    electric boogey

  71. Solidus327 says:

    Electric fish Magneto sounds awesome

  72. Joshua Spath says:

    I think the feeling is similar to your hairs sticking up on your arm do to the balloon you rubbed on your head.

  73. Angela Wang says:

    Is there a video just on platypuses yet? If not, can there be one?

  74. Paul Hembree says:

    humans are biohacking themselves to be able to feel electric fields. It is really simple to you can get it done at tatoo shops by puting a magnet in your finger.

  75. I Created An Account For This says:


  76. _scions says:

    It's Electric! Boogie-woogie-woogie

  77. Ítalo Lucena Vaz says:

    Why when you talked about eletric eels you didn't show any eletric eels?

  78. Mom said its my turn on the Xbox says:

    Get it, shocking?

  79. says:

    Different charges can signal agression alarm even courtship by electrical discharge just like the brain Chemicals are Marley the bridge or fuel or litter clouding the electrical discharge in your brain and do this with animals count as telepath

  80. satansaysimnuts says:

    "ELECTRIC BOOGIE !!!!!!"

  81. RedfishCarolina says:

    Says the electric eel is not actually an eel, but then proceed to show a MORAY EEL over and over and over.

  82. Existence of Existence says:

    I see what you did in the title

  83. Ag3nt0fCha0s says:

    I can imagine being electroreceptive because I am.
    My electrolysis is desperate and controlled.

  84. mark burress says:

    Well we did invent battery powered sex toys..

  85. Cinnemax77 says:

    electro boogie???

  86. The Block Hell says:

    Damn it. I'm straight geeking right now.

  87. Charles Tucker says:

    3:31 you’re welcome 😉

  88. wintertide wolf says:

    Someone please make a gif of Hank doing the Electric Boogie.

  89. * Butdontaskmebb * says:

    Electric eels can actually produce up to 700 volts and can stop a human heart. Although typically humans will die from drowning from convulsing under water

  90. Alexandria School of Science says:

    why dont electric fish electrocute themselves?

  91. Alexander says:

    Science, science, evolution, science, science, science. Well hello there lil Evo, now how did your faithy little be'hind gone get in there boy? Don't you go act chameleon all up in there and act as if you a experimental science. Some of us are paying attention! Now stay out of trouble, you hea' me?

  92. rrrkkk says:

    Most of the images you showed were not of electric eels, all except for the first one were Morays!!!! Stupid mistake.

  93. K1naku5ana3R1ka says:

    One thing you missed: AFAIK, electrogenesic (I think that’s the term) animals are basically all underwater creatures; water with other stuff and ions dissolved in it, which basically all water on Earth is, conducts electricity very well. Air does not; creating a usable electric field, especially to harm other creatures, would require even more power for land creatures (like humans) than water dwellers.

  94. Amit Patro says:

    How many times do I have to tell youtube I don't like kids videos?

  95. David Berquist says:

    Are electric eals 120/240 volts single phase or 3 phase 208 or 480 volts 60 cycle if you roll the eal over is ther a plate on the bottom of it with the spects and ul lable

  96. David Berquist says:

    Is the eel 120/240 volts single phase or 3 phase 480/277 volts + or -10% dos it have a fuse inside is the voltage of the eel stamped on the bottom of it

  97. Jay says:

    Seeing Hank doing the electric boogie has made my life complete, I can die happy now

  98. Bazooka Llama Productions says:

    why tf is every suggested vid suddenly peppa pig? GO HOME YOUTUBE YOURE DRUNK!

  99. Mei ling Tan says:

    The picture u put for the electric eel is not vein at electric eel is an abba knife fish

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