|ELECTRIC RAY (Torpedo californica)
If you had a headache and lived in Ancient Greece, there was a chance your doctor would treat you with an electric shock from a Torpedo Ray. Although it would knock you off your feet, it probably wouldn’t kill you. When you could talk again, it probably wouldn’t be to complain about your headache, even if you still had one.
Today, Electric Rays aren’t used to relieve headaches, but are important in medical research and are eaten by some people. These slow-moving bottom-dwellers are left to themselves to prowl the kelp beds and coral reefs off the west coast of the US and northern British Columbia, Canada, for fish and other invertebrates. They may be the same species as that found off the coast of Japan, Chile and Peru, but scientists are still researching them.
Weighing up to 90 pounds, this spotted fish finds prey by feeling its electrical magnetic impulses through the water, even if they have buried themselves in the sand to hide. Prey includes halibut, mackerel and herring, as well as cephalopods. When it finds something to eat, it wraps its body around the prey and stuns it with up to 50 volts of electricity.
They use their electric powers both to capture prey and in defense if they are bothered by predators. Only sharks and other large carnivorous fish are known to feed on Electric Rays, and then, only rarely – no one wants to recover from an electric shock that can put them out of commission, even for a few minutes.
Electric Ray mothers keep their eggs inside their bodies until they hatch (ovoviviparous). She gives birth to 17 – 20 live “pups” at a time, each one about 8 inches long. Mothers have babies only every other year. After being born, the young are on their own to start catching their own food and taking care of themselves. Although this species is not currently at risk, it should be noted that their habitat, reefs and kelp beds, is in continual decline due to pollution and changes in water chemistry. It is also notable that this species has low resilience in fecundity – needing about 14 years for a population to double in size. This means it would take a long time for them to recover from population decreases.