If you ask anyone to think of an “electric” animal, it is pretty likely that they will think of the electric eel. However, in an instance of convergent evolution (many different species adopting the same trait in separate lines, like the evolution of eyesight among different animals) electric eels do not happen to be the only “electric” animals. I have listed a few others below:
“Living Battery” Microbes
Researchers have found instances of microbes living near hydrothermal vents that produce an electrical current as a byproduct of their feeding on the chemicals that spew forth from the bowels of Earth. In the lab, scientists found that the more you feed the microbes, the greater electrical current they produce. In theory this could one day be harnessed to power underwater research stations. It is not just their feeding habits that makes these microbes conduct electricity. Because they typically live on conducting minerals in the hydrothermal vents they call home, the microbes are able to move electrons (moving electrons is an electric current) across the metallic surface of their home to produce a current.
The Oriental Hornet
The yellow areas of this underground dwelling hornet apparently conduct voltage across their exoskeletons when exposed to light, mimicking a solar cell. Researchers haven’t quite figured out the purpose for this trait, but you can learn much more about the science behind it here.
Peter’s Elephantnose Fish
The nose on this peculiar looking fish is not actually a nose, but a sensitive extension of the mouth that it uses for self-defense, communication, navigation, and finding worms and insects to eat. This organ is covered in electroreceptors, as is much of the rest of its body. The elephantnose fish has poor eyesight and therefore uses a weak electric field, which it generates by muscular contractions, to find food, to navigate in dark or turbid waters, and to find a mate.
Electric eels aren’t actually eels, but are in fact closer in classification to catfish. Therefore it is no surprise that another member of the catfish family has a similar trait. The electric catfish can generate enough electricity to power a computer for an hour, and it uses this adaptation to stun its prey.
[Via Popular Science]