This article appeared in the December 10, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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A shocking holiday tale: electric eel powers Christmas tree

Thom Benson/Tennessee Aquarium/AP
An electric ell named Miguel Wattson lights up a Christmas tree at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, Tenn. The aquarium says a system connected to Miguel's tank enables his shocks to power strands of lights on the nearby tree.

But first, truly electrifying news. The Tennessee Aquarium has a display that uses an electric eel to light up a Christmas tree. The lights flicker when it sends out an extra big jolt. There have been other Christmas-lighting electric eels in the past from Tokyo and Vancouver to Sandy, Utah. But none of them has managed to garner the attention that Miguel Wattson is generating down in Chattanooga. Everyone is reporting on the eel, er, knifefish. Maybe it’s the name: Wattson is spelled W-A-T-T-S-O-N. Or maybe it’s because he roars. Sensors in the water monitor the eel’s electrical discharges and deliver the big ones to a set of speakers.

But I think the biggest reason for his popularity is because he tweets. Miguel isn’t the aquarium’s first animal on Twitter. Chattanooga Chuck did it for years around Groundhog Day. But eel tweets are particularly charged: like SKA-TOW and ZING!!!!!! Once in a while staffers will throw in a bad pun or weak joke, like “I’m not slippery; I’m frictionally challenged.” For the most part, though, Miguel keeps it real. And there’s something particularly soothing these days about a Twitter feed where the biggest zingers amount to BUZZ!!! and SKA-TOW!!!

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This article appeared in the December 10, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/10 edition