A tale from 1807 tells of a famous German scientist named Alexander von Humboldt who was documenting the geography and ecology of South America. He was determined to conduct an electricity experiment with eels, so with the assistance of locals, he helped usher some horses to wade about in a muddy stream in the Amazon rainforest. As the story goes, the eels then leaped out of the water and attacked the horses.

"The eels, stunned by the noise, defend themselves by repeated discharges of their electrical batteries, and for a long time seem likely to obtain the victory," Humboldt wrote in a later account of his travels. "Several horses sink beneath the violence of the invisible strokes ... and stunned by the force and frequency of the shocks, disappear under the water. We had little doubt that the fishing would terminate by killing successively all the animals engaged."

Over 200 years later, a study conducted by Kenneth Catania, a biologist at Vanderbilt University, proves Humboldt's legend to be true. Watch a video of an eel leaping and electrocuting a plastic crocodile head in the video below, and then head over to the Washington Post to read more about Catania's research. 


Feature image via Kenneth Catania/Vanderbilt University