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Scientists Discover Fish That Communicate in Electric Shocks


Fish species that communicate in electric shocks were recently discovered in Gabon, Africa. 

Following 13 years of study in Gabon’s Ogooué River, ichthyologists have discovered three unusual electric fish that has resulted in two new species and one new genus.

The genus Cryptomyrus is the first of its kind to be discovered since 1977. The new two fish species include Cryptomyrus ogoouensis and Cryptomyrus ona. Moreover, Cornell University says preserved DNA from the three specimens sequenced there were closely related but didn’t belong to Mormyridae, or the category of electric fish. Cryptomyrus is Greek for “hidden fish” and named after the Ogooué River from where it was discovered.

Dr. John Sullivan of Cornell University and his colleague Professor Carl Hopkins published their findings in the February 8th edition of the journal ZooKeys.

“I know these fish well enough that I can see them just for a second when I pull them from my trap and I know what they are,” Sullivan said to Wired. “And this one I was like, ‘What is that?’”

“It’s unusual to describe a new genus and two species with only three specimens in hand, but no one knows when more specimens will become available and we felt this shouldn’t wait any longer,” said Sullivan.

Here’s more about the discovery from Cornell University:

More than 200 species of mormyrid fish live in fresh waters across Africa where they communicate with weak electric organ discharges or “EODs” produced from an organ in front of their tail. They also “electrolocate” using special receptor cells in their skin that allow the fish to navigate by sensing nearby objects in the water as distortions to their self-produced electric field.

This newly discovered fish species apparently measures four and a half inches long, is golden-brown, and boasts a Jay Leno-like chin. Moreover, it’s a weakly electric fish “hardwired to produce a certain waveform—that is, the shape of the pulse seen through an oscilloscope, which shows voltage over time.”

Fascinating, no? Amazing to see new fish species being discovered today.


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Scientists Discover Fish That Communicate in Electric Shocks