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Electric organ

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Electric organ

An electric ray (torpedo) showing location of electric organ and electrocytes stacked within it.


  1. ^ Kramer, Bernd (1996). "Electroreception and communication in fishes" (PDF). Progress in Zoology 42. 
  2. ^ Castello, M. E., A. Rodriguez-Cattaneo, P. A. Aguilera, L. Iribarne, A. C. Pereira, and A. A. Caputi (2009). "Waveform generation in the weakly electric fish Gymnotus coropinae (Hoedeman): the electric organ and the electric organ discharge". Journal of Experimental Biology 212 (9): 1351–1364.  
  3. ^ a b Alexander Mauro, "The role of the voltaic pile in the Galvani-Volta controversy concerning animal vs. metallic electricity" in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, volume XXIV, number 2, April, 1969 available online at
  4. ^ Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. London: John Murray.  
  5. ^ Lissmann, H. W. (1951). "CONTINUOUS ELECTRICAL SIGNALS FROM THE TAIL OF A FISH, GYMNARCHUS-NILOTICUS CUV". Nature 167 (4240): 201–202.  
  6. ^ Lissmann, H. W. (1958). "ON THE FUNCTION AND EVOLUTION OF ELECTRIC ORGANS IN FISH". Journal of Experimental Biology 35: 156–&. 
  7. ^ Caputi, A. A., B. A. Carlson, and O. Macadar. 2005. Electric organs and their control. Pages 410-451 in T. H. Bullock, C. D. Hopkins, A. N. Popper, and R. R. Fay, eds. Electroreception. New York.
  8. ^ Crampton, W. G. R., J. K. Davis, N. R. Lovejoy, and M. Pensky. 2008. Multivariate classification of animal communication signals: A simulation-based comparison of alternative signal processing procedures using electric fishes. Journal of Physiology-Paris 102:304-321.
  9. ^ Bastian J. 1986. Electrolocation: behavior, anatomy, and physiology. Pages 577-612 in T. H. Bullock and W. Heiligenberg, eds. Electroreception. New York.
  10. ^ Aguilera, P. A., and A. A. Caputi. 2003. Electroreception in G. carapo: detection of changes in waveform of the electrosensory signals. Journal of Experimental Biology 206:989-998.
  11. ^ Pereira, A. C., and A. A. Caputi. 2010. Imaging in Electrosensory Systems. Interdisciplinary Sciences-Computational Life Sciences 2:291-307.
  12. ^ Zakon, H. H., D. J. Zwickl, Y. Lu, and D. M. Hillis (2008). "Molecular evolution of communication signals in electric fish". Journal of Experimental Biology 211 (11): 1814–1818.  
  13. ^ Lavoue, S., R. Bigorne, G. Lecointre, and J. F. Agnese (2000). "Phylogenetic relationships of mormyrid electric fishes (Mormyridae; Teleostei) inferred from cytochrome b sequences". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 14 (1): 1–10.  
  14. ^ Lavoué, S., M. Miya, M. E. Arnegard, J. P. Sullivan, C. D. Hopkins, and M. Nishida. 2012. Comparable ages for the independent origins of electrogenesis in African and South American weakly electric fishes. PLoS ONE 7: e36287.
  15. ^ Kawasaki, M. (2009). "Evolution of Time-Coding Systems in Weakly Electric Fishes". Zoological Science 26 (9): 587–599.  
  16. ^ Gallant, J. R., L. L. Traeger, J. D. Volkening, H. Moffett, P. H. Chen, C. D. Novina, G. N. Phillips, R. Anand, G. B. Wells, M. Pinch, R. Guth, G. A. Unguez, J. S. Albert, H. H. Zakon, M. P. Samanta, and M. R. Sussman. 2014. Genomic basis for the convergent evolution of electric organs. Science 344:1522-1525.


  • Review Article on the molecular evolution of the electric organ.[12]
  • Phylogeny of weakly electric fishes.[13][14]
  • Comprehensive overview of electric organ function and evolution in weakly electric fishes.[15]
  • Succinct Nature article describing differences in gene expression between sarcomeres and elctrocytes of electric organs.[16]

Further reading

Electric organ discharge (EOD) is the electric field generated by the organs of animals including electric fish. In some cases the electric discharge is strong and is used for protection from predators; in other cases it is weak and it is used for navigation and communication.[7] Communicating through EODs occurs when a fish uses its own electroreceptors to sense the electric signals of a nearby fish.[8] Electric fish navigate by detecting distortions in their electrical field by using their cutaneous electroreceptors [9][10][11]

Electric organ discharge The electric organs are usually oriented to fire along the length of the body in most fishes. In


To discharge the electrocytes at the correct time, the electric eel uses its pacemaker nucleus, a nucleus of pacemaker neurons. When an electric eel spots its prey, the pacemaker neurons fire and acetylcholine is subsequently released from electromotor neurons to the electrocytes, resulting in an electric organ discharge.


The stack of electrocytes has long been compared to a Marx generator, in that the individual elements are slowly charged in parallel, then suddenly and nearly simultaneously discharged in series to produce a high voltage pulse.

Electrocytes, electroplaques or electroplaxes are cells used by electric eels, rays, and other fish for electrogenesis. They are flat disk-like cells. Electric eels have several thousand of these cells stacked, each producing 0.15 V. The cells function by pumping positive sodium and potassium ions out of the cell via transport proteins powered by adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Postsynaptically, electrocytes work much like muscle cells. They have nicotinic acetylcholine receptors. These cells are used in research because of their resemblance to nerve-muscle junctions.



Since the 20th Century, electric organs have received extensive study, for example Lissmann's 1951 paper[5] and his review of their function and evolution in 1958.[6]

In the 19th century, [4]

In the 1770s the electric organs of the torpedo and electric eel were the subject of Royal Society papers by Hunter, Walsh and Williamson. They appear to have influenced the thinking of Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta - the founders of electrophysiology and electrochemistry.[3]

Research history


  • Research history 1
  • Electrocytes 2
    • Firing 2.1
    • Location 2.2
  • Electric organ discharge 3
  • Further reading 4
  • References 5


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