Electric eels are fascinating animals, not only because they look pretty cool, but also because they can generate electricity and deliver shocks of up to 600 volts. But they’re not the only fish that can produce electric fields, and recently, research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison has yielded some surprising information about the evolution of this ability- and what it could mean for other species.
Researchers analyzed the genes of the electric eel as well as other electric fish from unrelated families. It appears that there are a limited number of ways to evolve electric organs, and in at least six different fish, their electric organs evolved in the same way.
So… why should we care? By understanding the way electric organs were created through evolution, scientists may be able to gain the information needed to one day create electric organs in humans or other other animals. The zebrafish, a commonly used research animal, may play a role in attempts at this type of modification. If humans were able to have electric organs, they could possibly serve to power pacemakers, neurostimulators, or other implanted medical devices. Read more about it here:
Science can surprise you. And inspiration can come from anywhere. Biomechanics researcher at Brown University, Thomas Roberts, is proof of that! While looking at records in the Guinness Book of World Records with his son, something didn’t seem quite right. Scientific studies had previously shown the maximum distance of a frog’s jump to be around 1 m, but the world record showed jumps of over 2m.
So Roberts did some creative research of his own at a local county fair. Hours of video recording and observation showed that previous research had obviously underestimated frog jumping performance. You may be asking yourself, “Why should I really care about jumping frogs?”- but trust me, there’s a good reason to care. Frogs are often studied for their relevance in muscle performance, and they can be a very accurate model for human physiology studies.
Observing frogs at the fair seems like pretty unconventional animal research, but it proved to be extremely helpful! Based on observations, it seems that leg muscle isn’t the only factor in contributing to jumping distances, and this could help us understand physiological traits of other animals- including humans. Here’s to thinking- and jumping- outside the box!