Electric rays are a group of cartilaginous fish that are capable of producing an electric shock. They have two kidney-shaped electric organs on their head. Depending on the species, their shock can produce 8 to 220 volts of electricity.
The strongest shock can knock a human unconscious. These rays are usually found near muddy or sandy seafloors. They propel themselves through the water using their tail. An electric ray’s diet depends on the species but may include animals like halibut, herring, and worms.
Their mouth is filled with round teeth and their jaw can expand to swallow large fish. Their eyes are small so they rely on electroreceptors called ampullae of Lorenzini to detect prey. Electric rays may bury themselves in the sand and ambush prey with an electric shock by wrapping their disc around the prey. They might also drift over unsuspecting fish and stun them.
The largest species of electric ray, called the Atlantic torpedo ray, can reach over 6 ft (1.8 m) long while the smallest electric ray only grows to around a foot (.3 m). Rays are ovoviviparous. This means that embryos develop inside eggs and remain inside their mother’s body until they are ready for live birth.
Young is already born with the ability to give off electric charges. Females can give birth from anywhere from a couple to over a dozen juvenile rays. Electric rays can be aggressive and have few natural predators due to their electric defense. They’ve even been known to chase after divers. Some species migrate over long distances.
Electric rays are sometimes used in medical research. Their meat can be eaten if their electrical organs are removed. Some ancient civilizations believed that the shock of an electric ray could treat things like headaches and gout.
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