Undisciplined: Senses and Sensibility

Nov 12, 2020

Credit gordonramsaysubmissions, creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Without having a really good reason for doing so, nobody in their right mind would put a dead fish into a ziploc bag, attach it to wires to an electric stimulator, and release it into a tank with an electric eel.

But thankfully, Kenneth Catania had a perfectly good reason for doing all of that. Or maybe he’s not in his right mind. 

Either way, the result was a revelation about the eel — evidence that eels don’t just use their capacity to stun prey with zaps of electricity to kill, but also to sense the world around them.


Catania is a professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, and although he is the winner of a whole bunch of scientific awards, he also came to fame in no small part because he lets eels shock him, which brings us back to that question about being in one’s right mind. His new book is full of strange experiments and intriguing findings. It’s called “Great Adaptations: Star-Nosed Moles, Electric Eels, and Other Tales of Evolution’s Mysteries Solved" and you can get it wherever you buy your books.