(fashion) A newly discovered species of electric eel produces an 860 volt shock, the highest charge of any known animal in the world.
The creature is one of two extra species of the fish identified by scientists, who examined 107 specimens from across the Amazon rainforest.
The newly discovered eel delivers a zap more than 200 volts higher than ever previously recorded, but is unlikely to kill a human, according to experts.
It was previously believed there was just one type of electric eel.
The only species already known to science was the Electrophorus electricus, which Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus recorded in 1766.
But researchers have now found evidence to add two new species to the genus: E. varii and E. voltai, the latter of which is the eel that produces the 860-volt shock.
Electrophorus voltai (pictured), one of the two newly discovered electric eel species, produces an 860 volt shock, the highest charge of any known animal in the world
Eels use their electric shock both to protect themselves and for hunting.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, not only provides new knowledge about the animal more than 250 years after it was first described but also opens avenues of research into the origin and production of strong electric discharges in other fish species.
Electric eels are naked-back knifefishes, known as Gymnotidae, and are more closely related to catfish and carp than to other eel families.
Gymnotiformes, the knifefish family to which Gymnotidae belong, are native to Mexico and South America and are found almost exclusively in freshwater habitats.
They are mostly nocturnal and all are capable of producing a weak electric field for communication and navigation and most have very small eyes.
Study author Dr Carlos David de Santana, an associate researcher at the US National Museum of Natural History (NMNH), said: 'The electric eel, which can reach 2.5 metres in length, is the only fish that produces such a strong discharge; it uses three electric organs.
'The shock is used for defence and predation.'
The long recognised Electrophorus electricus (pictured) was described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus back in 1766
The third species, Electrophorus varii (pictured), named after the late Smithsonian ichthyologist Richard Vari, swims through murky, slow-flowing lowland waters
After studying the animals' DNA, bodies and environments, and measuring the power of the shocks, the researchers decided the formerly single species needed to be reclassified into three.
Professor Naércio Menezes, from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, said: 'We used voltage as the key differentiation criterion.
'This has never been done before to identify a new species.'
During field measurements using a voltmeter, he said the research team recorded a discharge of 860 volts, the highest found in any animal, from a specimen of E. voltai.
The strongest shock previously recorded was 650 volts.
The name of the species pays homage to Italian physicist Alessandro Volta, who invented the electric battery in 1799, basing its design on the electric eel.
E. varii is named after zoologist Richard P. Vari, an American researcher who died in 2016.
Dr Santana added: 'He was the foreign researcher who most influenced and helped Brazilian students and researchers with the study of fish in South America.'
Two of the species, Electrophorus electricus and E. voltai, live in the highland regions of the Amazon (pictured)
Dr Santana, who has entered several rivers to collect electric eels for research purposes and been shocked more than once, said the discharge is high voltage but low amperage – around one amp, so it is not necessarily dangerous to humans.
As a comparison, a shock from a power outlet can be 10 or 20 amps but is of a