Naked-back knifefish

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Naked-back knifefishes
Electric Eel.jpg
Electric eel, Electrophorus electricus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Gymnotiformes
Suborder: Gymnotoidei
Family: Gymnotidae

The naked-back knifefishes are a family (Gymnotidae) of knifefishes that are found only in fresh waters of Central America and South America.[1] All have organs adapted to the exploitation of bioelectricity. The family has 33 valid species in two genera.[2] A number of undescribed species are known in museum collections.

These fish are nocturnal and mostly occur in quiet waters from deep rivers to swamps. In strongly flowing waters. they may bury themselves.[1]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Like the other gymnotiforms, gymnotids have classic knifefish bodies. The body is long and eel-like, the dorsal fin and pelvic fins are absent, and the anal fin is extremely long and used for movement.[1]

The sole member of Electrophorus is the electric eel, which produces both strong (up to 600 volts) and weak (<1 V) electric discharges, for use in predation and communication/navigation, respectively. The electric eel is the largest of the gymnotiform fishes, growing up to more than 2 m (6.6 ft) length. Species of Gymnotus reach up to about 100 cm (3.3 ft) in length.[2]

These knifefish also use electricity to assist in their movement and navigation in the water due to their limited visibility, or in some cases, blindness.[3]


The forty species are in two genera:[4]


  1. ^ a b c Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2007). "Gymnotidae" in FishBase. April 2007 version.
  2. ^ a b Nelson, Joseph, S. (2006). Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-25031-7. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2011). "Gymnotidae" in FishBase. December 2011 version.