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The Shocking History of Electric FishesFrom Ancient Epochs to the Birth of Modern Neurophysiology$
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Stanley Finger and Marco Piccolino

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195366723

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195366723.001.0001

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The Shocking Catfish of the Nile

The Shocking Catfish of the Nile

(p.19) Chapter 2 The Shocking Catfish of the Nile
The Shocking History of Electric Fishes

Stanley Finger

Marco Piccolino

Oxford University Press

The earliest records showing or describing electric fish come from ancient Egypt. They depict what Humboldt called “the electric catfish of the Nile”—a smooth-skinned fish with a head which is as long as it is high, tiny eyes, an adipose dorsal fin without rays, and a round snout with three pairs of whiskers. This fish, the Malapterurus electricus of the scientific literature, is usually gray or brown with some bluish tinting and black blotches on its back, and with red, orange, and yellow markings on its ventral fins. Still encountered along the Nile by modern fishermen, it can grow over to a size of two feet (about sixty centimeters) in length. This chapter examines illustrations of these fish, associated with tombs of powerful early Egyptians.

Keywords:   electric fish, nile, malapterurus electricus, early Egyptians, tomb art

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