Torpedo (genus)

Torpedo (genus)

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Torpedo is a genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of rays
Batoidea is a superorder of cartilaginous fish commonly known as rays and skates, containing more than 500 described species in thirteen families...

, commonly known as electric rays, torpedo rays, or torpedoes. It is the sole genus of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Torpedinidae. They are slow-moving bottom-dwellers capable of generating electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 as a defense and feeding mechanism. There are between fifteen and twenty-two extant species.

The naval
A navy is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake- or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions...

A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 known as the torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 was named after this genus, whose own name is derived from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 word meaning "numb" or "paralysed", presumably the sensation one would feel after experiencing the ray's electric shock.


The largest species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 is the Atlantic torpedo
Atlantic torpedo
The Atlantic torpedo or dark electric ray is a species of electric ray in the family Torpedinidae. It is found in the Atlantic Ocean, from Nova Scotia to Brazil in the west and from Scotland to West Africa and off southern Africa in the east, occurring at depths of up to...

, Torpedo nobiliana, which can grow to a weight of 90 kilograms (198.4 lb) and deliver a 220-volt electric shock
Electric shock
Electric Shock of a body with any source of electricity that causes a sufficient current through the skin, muscles or hair. Typically, the expression is used to denote an unwanted exposure to electricity, hence the effects are considered undesirable....

. Electric rays have patches of modified muscle
Muscle is a contractile tissue of animals and is derived from the mesodermal layer of embryonic germ cells. Muscle cells contain contractile filaments that move past each other and change the size of the cell. They are classified as skeletal, cardiac, or smooth muscles. Their function is to...

 cells called electroplaques that make up an electric organ
Electric organ
In biology, the electric organ is an organ common to all electric fish used for the purposes of creating an electric field. The electric organ is derived from modified nerve or muscle tissue...

. These generate an electric gradient, similar to the normal electric potential
Electric potential
In classical electromagnetism, the electric potential at a point within a defined space is equal to the electric potential energy at that location divided by the charge there...

 across most cell membrane
Cell membrane
The cell membrane or plasma membrane is a biological membrane that separates the interior of all cells from the outside environment. The cell membrane is selectively permeable to ions and organic molecules and controls the movement of substances in and out of cells. It basically protects the cell...

s, but amplified greatly by its concentration into a very small area. The electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 can be stored in the tissues, which act as a battery
Battery (electricity)
An electrical battery is one or more electrochemical cells that convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Since the invention of the first battery in 1800 by Alessandro Volta and especially since the technically improved Daniell cell in 1836, batteries have become a common power...

. The battery can be discharged in pulses. A ray can emit a shock into the body of a prey animal to stun it and make it easier to capture and eat, or into the body of a predator. Their tissue is often used in neurobiological
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the nervous system. Traditionally, neuroscience has been seen as a branch of biology. However, it is currently an interdisciplinary science that collaborates with other fields such as chemistry, computer science, engineering, linguistics, mathematics,...

 research because of its unique properties.


Torpedo rays are flat like other rays, disc-shaped, with caudal fins that vary in length. Their mouths and gill slit
Gill slit
Gill slits are individual openings to gills, i.e., multiple gill arches, which lack a single outer cover. Such gills are characteristic of Cartilaginous fish such as sharks, rays, sawfish, and guitarfish. Most of these have five pairs, but a few species have 6 or 7 pairs...

s are located on their undersides. Males have claspers near the base of the tail. Females are ovoviviparous
Ovoviviparity, ovovivipary, or ovivipary, is a mode of reproduction in animals in which embryos develop inside eggs that are retained within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch...

, meaning they form eggs but do not lay them. The young "hatch" within her body and she bears them live.


Family Torpedinidae Bonaparte, 1838
  • Genus Torpedo Houttuyn
    Martinus Houttuyn
    Maarten Houttuyn or Houttuijn , Latinised as Martinus Houttuyn, was a Dutch naturalist.Houttuyn was born in Hoorn, studied medicine in Leiden and moved to Amsterdam in 1753. He published many books on natural history. His areas of interest encompassed Pteridophytes, Bryophytes and Spermatophytes...

    , 1764
    • Torpedo acarinata Adnet, 2006
    • Torpedo adenensis M. R. de Carvalho, Stehmann & Manilo, 2002 (Aden Gulf torpedo)
    • Torpedo alexandrinsis Mazhar, 1987 (Alexandrine torpedo)
    • Torpedo andersoni Bullis, 1962 (Florida torpedo)
    • Torpedo bauchotae Cadenat, Capapé & Desoutter, 1978 (Rosette torpedo)
    • Torpedo californica Ayres
      William Orville Ayres
      William Orville Ayres was an American physician and ichthyologist. Born in Connecticut, he studied to become a doctor at Yale University School of Medicine....

      , 1855
      (Pacific electric ray)
    • Torpedo fairchildi F. W. Hutton
      Frederick Wollaston Hutton
      Captain Frederick Wollaston Hutton, FRS, was an English scientist who applied the theory of natural selection to explain the origins and nature of the natural history of New Zealand.- Biography :...

      , 1872
      (New Zealand torpedo)
    • Torpedo formosa Haas & Ebert, 2006 (Taiwan Torpedo)
    • Torpedo fuscomaculata W. K. H. Peters
      Wilhelm Peters
      Wilhelm Karl Hartwich Peters was a German naturalist and explorer.He was assistant to Johannes Peter Müller and later curator of the Berlin Zoological Museum. In September 1842 he travelled to Mozambique via Angola. He returned to Berlin with an enormous collection of natural history specimens...

      , 1855
      (Black-spotted torpedo)
    • Torpedo mackayana Metzelaar, 1919 (Ringed torpedo)
    • Torpedo macneilli (Whitley
      Gilbert Percy Whitley
      Gilbert Percy Whitley was a British-born Australian ichthyologist and malacologist who was Curator of Fishes at the Australian Museum in Sydney for about 40 years. He was born at Swaythling, Southampton, England, and was educated at King Edward VI School, Southampton and Osborne House...

      , 1932)
      (Shorttail torpedo)
    • Torpedo marmorata Risso
      Antoine Risso
      Giuseppe Antonio Risso , called Antoine Risso, was a Niçard naturalist.Risso was born in Nice, County of Nice, a part of the Duchy of Savoy, and studied under Giovanni Battista Balbis. He published , and . Risso's dolphin was named after him...

      , 1810
      (Marbled electric ray)
    • Torpedo microdiscus Parin & Kotlyar, 1985 (Smalldisk torpedo)
    • Torpedo nobiliana Bonaparte, 1835 (Atlantic torpedo)
    • Torpedo panthera Olfers
      Ignaz von Olfers
      Ignaz Franz Werner Maria von Olfers was a German naturalist, historian and diplomat. Olfers was born in Münster. In 1816 he travelled to Brazil as a diplomat....

      , 1831
      (Panther electric ray)
    • Torpedo peruana Chirichigno F., 1963 (Peruvian torpedo)
    • Torpedo pessanti Adnet, 2006
    • Torpedo puelcha Lahille, 1926 (Argentine torpedo)
    • Torpedo semipelagica Parin & Kotlyar, 1985 (Semipelagic torpedo)
    • Torpedo sinuspersici Olfers
      Ignaz von Olfers
      Ignaz Franz Werner Maria von Olfers was a German naturalist, historian and diplomat. Olfers was born in Münster. In 1816 he travelled to Brazil as a diplomat....

      , 1831
      (Variable torpedo)
    • Torpedo suessii Steindachner
      Franz Steindachner
      Franz Steindachner was an Austrian zoologist.- Work and career :Being interested in natural history, Steindachner took up the study of fossil fishes on the recommendation of his friend Eduard Suess...

      , 1898
    • Torpedo tokionis (S. Tanaka (I)
      Shigeho Tanaka
      was a Japanese ichthyologist and professor of zoology at the Imperial University of Tokyo. He published numerous works on fishes and sharks and co-authored a book on Japanese fish with famous American scientist David Starr Jordan.Publications:...

      , 1908)
      (Trapezoid torpedo)
    • Torpedo torpedo (Linnaeus
      Carolus Linnaeus
      Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as , was a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist, who laid the foundations for the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature. He is known as the father of modern taxonomy, and is also considered one of the fathers of modern ecology...

      , 1758)
      (Common torpedo)
    • Torpedo tremens de Buen
      Don Fernando de Buen y Lozano
      Don Fernando de Buen y Lozano was a Spanish ichthyologist and oceanographer. He lived in Mexico, Uruguay, and Chile. In Uruguay, he was the director of the Department of Science at the Oceanography and Fisheries Service as well as Professor of Hydrobiology and Protozoology in the Faculty of Arts...

      , 1959
      (Chilean torpedo)