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Electric eel lights aquarium Christmas tree

The eel can generate 600 volts, which is enough to make the tree lights flash.

The Living Planet Aquarium in Sandy is shocking visitors with its Christmas tree display in the 'Journey To South America' gallery.

Tree lights are blinking by using the energy generated by an electric eel in a nearby tank. "We took the voltage produced by the eel via stainless steel electrodes and used it to power a sequencer," said Terry Smith, Project Manager at Cache Valley Electric.

"The sequencer takes the voltage the eel produces and operates circuitry that flashes the lights, fast or slow, based on the level of voltage he puts out, " said Smith. Each time the eel moves, the lights on the five-foot-tall tree flash intermittently using four strands of holiday lights.

Electric eels live in the murky streams and ponds of the Amazon and Orinoco basins of South America. These famous freshwater predators get their name from the enormous electrical charge they can generate to stun prey and dissuade predators.

Their bodies contain electric organs with about 6,000 specialized cells called electrocytes that store power like tiny batteries. When threatened or attacking prey, these cells will discharge simultaneously, emitting a burst of at least 600 volts, about which equals five times the voltage of a standard U.S. wall socket.

"Visitors can visually and audibly experience the power of our electric eel and get a real sense of how amazing this creature is," said Angie Hyde, Director of Public Relations & Marketing. "We thought we'd put a festive twist on it for the holidays which has been a huge hit with our members and visitors."

The Electric eel display is made possible by Bill Carnell, Terry Smith, Jim Laub and Jody Jenkins of Cache Valley Electric, and will be available to visitors through December 31.




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