Two groups of fish -- one in Africa (Mormyroids) and one in South America (Gymnotiforms) -- are the subject of a study in this week's Molecular Biology and Evolution that explores how their muscle cells evolved to produce electrical signals. The fish can locate objects and "talk" using electrical signals.
These buzzy creatures are among a number of lifeforms that use electricity for offense or defense. Let's check them out.
Above, gymnarchus is an example of a weakly electric fish that is able to detect and locate electric fields.
Similar to electrostatic dust cloths, spider webs attract electrically charged prey. The electricity, in this case, is derived from flapping.
The discovery, outlined in the the journal Scientific Reports, could help to explain how spider webs evolved. Light, flexible spider silk easily deforms in the wind and electrostatic charges to aid prey capture. Without this flexibility, the flying insect could just bounce off and zip on its way.
It doesn't take much imagination to understand what the electric eel is capable of given its name. The fish, which can grow up to more than 6 1/2 feet in length, uses electric shocks produced by two organs in their bodies, the Hunter's organ and the Sach's organ, to discharge upwards of 600 volts of electricity at one time, enough to stun prey or detour a potential predator.
In a remarkable case of biological engineering, scientists confirmed that each tiny section of a bacteria found on the seafloor contains a bundle of insulated wires that leads an electric current from one end to the other. The bacteria are like living electrical cables.
The discovery could lead to an entirely new class of organic electronics -- including devices that could be implanted in the human body.
Electric fields allow flowers to communicate with bumblebees and possibly other species, including humans.
Bees have a positive electrical charge because they fly in air, which is full of all kinds of tiny particles, such as dust and charged molecules. When a bee lands on a flower, this generates its own electrical field, and therefore a force. It’s as though a mini spark results when the two connect.
The flower, in turn, is electrically changed for a short period after the interaction. And the interaction may help the bee in future foraging.