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Friday, 3 January 2020

The Christmas Lights Powered by an Electric Eel

Visitors to the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga, the United States, are treated to a shocking Christmas attraction this December. An electric eel by the name of Miguel Wattson is powering a festively decorated Christmas tree near its tank.
Every time Miguel Wattson releases a jolt of electricity, sensors in the tank pick up the signals, amplify it and feed it to the lights decorating the Christmas tree. Whenever you see the lights flicker, you know that Miguel Wattson is up to something. An electric eel typically discharges very little, about 10 volt, when at ease or when navigating in the dark (eels have very poor eyesight so they use electric jolts the same way bats use sonar to find obstacles), but when hunting for food or when plain excited, eels put out stronger voltages. An adult eel, more than four feet in length, can discharge as high as 800 volts, enough to stun preys it plans to devour.

Miguel Wattson already has its own Twitter account. In 2014, engineers at Tennessee Aquarium wired up his tanks with a probe that detected jolts of electricity and put out prewritten tweets such as “ZIPPITY-ZAPPITY-ZOOP!!!” or “CRACKLE!!!!!”. The account has attracted some 40,000 followers.
Miguel is not the first eel to light Christmas trees. In 2012, an eel in an aquarium in Sandy, Utah performed a similar trick and another eel in Japan lighted up holiday lights in 2015. The Tennessee Aquarium hopes to make Miguel’s electric Christmas show an annual tradition.

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