A scientist studying strange animal behavior appears to have confirmed a legendary tale about eels that had been dismissed as fanciful by researchers for over 200 years.
Vanderbilt University's Kenneth Catania was transporting some of the creatures in his research laboratory with a large net when he noticed that the animals would occasionally leap out of the water to attack the device.
While this was rather unusual, the biologist became even more intrigued after he realized that the eel's electric shock increased significantly when it made this offensive strike.
A subsequent investigation into the odd behavior unearthed an incredible story from 1807 featuring an eerily similar attack by eels.
Recounted by German explorer and scientist Alexander von Humboldt, the remarkable incident saw horses being killed by eels that leaped out of the shallow waters of an Amazon river and shocked them to death.
Since such a scenario had never been seen by his contemporaries, von Humboldt's story was largely mocked and ultimately ignored by the scientific community for the next two centuries.
But when Catania pursued studying the eel 'attacks' further, he found that the creatures clearly exhibited some kind of defense mechanism involving leaping out of the water to administer a tremendous shock.
He theorizes that a combination of shallow water and a looming predator are what create the conditions that cause the eel to strike rather than simply swim away from danger.
While the surprising discovery is sweet vindication for Alexander von Humboldt, it's unfortunately about two centuries too late.
Source: Washington Post