This is my first post on these forums, sorry if I've accidentally overlooked any rules or etiquette. Please let me know if more detail is necessary or would be helpful. This question is about a specific species in a setting I'm developing but I'd like to know if the concept is possible before getting into too much detail and wasting anyone's time.

I'm wondering if a land-dwelling species would be able to generate electricity the way electric fish do, with an electrocyte organ and electric organ discharge (EOD). From what I understand, the water surrounding an organism keeps it from being electrocuted during EOD since the water acts as a conductor for the current. Would a non-aquatic animal be able to actually biologically generate and discharge current (and utilize it as a defense mechanism to deter predators that have them compromised through direct contact when fleeing isn't an option) without just shocking itself?

Would the size of the creature be significant in determining whether or not this is a possibility? Would they need some kind of conductive biological grounding to distribute the charge and minimize harm to themselves when discharging? What other factors would I have to consider developing a non-aquatic creature with this ability?

Edit: I appreciate the suggestions to do with the other thread. I had not seen that thread even though I looked for more threads to do with electricity. I like the idea and am considering it! However, my question is about bioelectrogenesis which involves an electrocyte organ and EOD. While the triboelectric static charging idea is interesting and certainly fun to consider, it is not what I am asking about and I'm not sure if a significant enough charge to deter predators could be built up via friction without being released at inopportune times.

I want to know if it is possible for a land-bound creature to effectively utilize an electrocyte organ. If I understand correctly, triboelectric static buildup would release on contact with many things the creature could touch aside from predators. The electrocyte organ fires only when the animal needs it to--like an eel sending out electric pulses to detect prey, or discharging electricity to incapacitate prey--and generates electricity internally, rather than through external friction. I hope that makes sense. Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ My answer to this question here: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/79704/…. It seems sort of gauche to copy and paste an answer intact. But since this linked question was closed, I think your new one does not count as a duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 2, 2018 at 3:21
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    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of Draconic Creature externally getting electricity $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Jul 2, 2018 at 3:53
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    $\begingroup$ Eyeballing it, I'd say this could probably exist. I would guess that the main reason land animals don't do this very much is that, on land, poison skin is a more efficient contact deterrent. If the predators are for some reason resistant to certain toxins, an electric defense mechanism might make a lot of sense. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2018 at 5:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Aify - if something is closed as being a duplicate of a prior question, it seems like the prior question should be the place where those issues are discussed. A closed question cannot host new discussion in the same way. From help "Some duplicate questions may eventually be deleted, but often they are left as a signpost pointing people towards the canonical answer to that question." Given how fast questions are closed the "canonical answer" on a closed question might be canonical only by virtue of being posted quickly.. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 2, 2018 at 13:08
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    $\begingroup$ @kayleeFrye_onDeck This question is really old so I don't even remember if that section on Wikipedia was present when I asked this, but if it was, I overlooked it because that's about fungi and bacteria and I was thinking about fauna. Still cool though, thanks. $\endgroup$
    – merry
    May 2, 2019 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


There are a few Earth species that use electricity naturally.

In this website's list we can see that beside aquatic animals, some land based animals can use electricity too.

What Electricity is already used for on Land :

  • Sensor that can detect small electromagnetic or electrostatic fields, such as Echidnas, Bees.
  • Electrostatic-glue on-demand to climb vertical surfaces or head down such as Geckos
  • Trap that automatically catch surrounding foes such as a Spider's web

Considering the Gecko, we could argue that its capability is a small EOD, so my guess would be it's possible en theory and practically.

Taking aquatic species into account it's not unrealistic (IMO) that an land-based animal can use electrical discharge as a defense mechanism. The smaller the animal, the easier to believe. The closer the discharge, the more plausible.

Please also note that the less massive a creature is in weight the less it is subject to gravity and the more it to subject to electromagnetic fields, so electricity is a big thing at a fly-scale.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you, Kii! This answer was helpful. I am still curious about how the EOD would be redirected on land. Since air is significantly less conductive than seawater, is the excessive charge still redirected to the organism's surroundings as in the case of electric fish? Would more electricity have to be discharged to the predator? Would the ground, acting as an electron reservoir because of its size, neutralize the excessive charge through grounding? My main concern is whether or not the creature is harmed by its own electric organ discharge because it is not surrounded by a good conductor. $\endgroup$
    – merry
    Jul 2, 2018 at 5:01
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    $\begingroup$ A good answer, with examples. I like your emphasis on credible sizes and scales for electrocytic organisms. Insect-sized electric organisms may seem to be so exciting but they make better sense. I hope to see more good answers & questions from you in future. Plus one. $\endgroup$
    – a4android
    Jul 2, 2018 at 6:03
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    $\begingroup$ @merry Active discharge when bite pressure is applied, that way you can guarantee that the shock is dumping into a reasonably conductive environment, you predator's mouth. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Jul 2, 2018 at 10:22
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    $\begingroup$ @merry if the creature can fly, that could solve the self-shock problem. All it has to do is make sure it's not touching the ground, and all the electric discharge goes through the target to get to the ground. Air is an incredibly bad conductor of electricity $\endgroup$
    – jpgo5000
    Jul 3, 2018 at 11:02

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