For those who celebrate the Christmas holiday, nothing feels more festive than the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree. That's largely why, in cities all across the country, it's tree lighting ceremonies that launch a season of holiday festivities. But what if the season's most festive conifer was illuminated thanks to an alternative source of power? In Chattanooga, Tennessee, it is. In fact, an electric eel that powers a Christmas tree to light up at the Tennessee Aquarium is sure to be your kid's new holiday hero.
Earlier this week, the Tennessee Aquarium kicked off what they called an "eel-uminating new holiday tradition" that sees Miguel Wattson, their resident electric eel, using discharges from his electric organs to light up the aquarium's Christmas tree. Miguel, who can also use his electric shocks to tweet, was more than happy to show off his festive holiday contribution in a video posted to his official Twitter on Monday.
"Here'a a video of yours truly attempting to use my discharges to power the lights on a Christmas tree," a tweet sent from the eel's account read. "SPOILER ALERT ::: Of course I pull it off. My phenomenal cosmic — well, bio-electric — power is basically limitless."
But just how, and why, can an electric eel power a Christmas tree? Well, according to the aquarium, a special system of sensors connected to the water in Miguel's tank measures the voltage strength of his shocks and then converts that power into light-producing electricity.
"Whenever Miguel discharges electricity, sensors in the water deliver the charge to a set of speakers," Joey Turnipseed, an audio and visual production specialist at the Tennesee Aquarium, said in a recent statement. "The speakers convert the discharge into the sound you hear and the festively flashing lights."
As for why Miguel even produces electric shocks in the first place, aquarist Kimberly Hurt has explained that it's a pretty regular part of being an electric eel. "The rapid, dim blinking of the lights is caused by the constant, low-voltage blips of electricity he releases when he's trying to find food," Hurt said in a statement shared by the aquarium. "The bigger flashes are caused by the higher voltage shocks he emits when he's eating or excited."
Miguel was careful to note on Twitter, however, that he wasn't directly hooked up to the tree's lights, but rather it was the sensors doing the work. "OK, so full disclosure, the intensity of the lights reflects the strength of my discharges as detected by sensors in my tank," he tweeted. "Still r-eel-y cool, though, don'tcha think?"
Whether in a soft warm white or multi-colored hues, twinkle lights have a way of bringing the magic of the holidays inside — and it's even more magical when those lights are illuminated by an electric eel.