High voltage electric shocks cause life threatening cardiac injuries such as sudden cardiac standstill or severe myocardial injury. Here, we analysed the physiology of the heart of the strongly electric catfish (Malapterurus beninensis) that stuns prey with high-voltage shocks but is immune to its own, as well as external, high-voltage shocks. Neither a detailed analysis of the electrocardiogram nor the structure of the heart indicated a specialized cardiac conduction system. Using a suitable perfusion system, we discovered that, despite its immunity in vivo, the explanted heart of electric catfish can readily be activated by external electrical currents and is equally sensitive to electric shock-induced arrhythmias as similar-sized goldfish hearts. The surprise thus is that the electric catfish has a vulnerable heart that requires to be protected by highly efficient but presently unknown means.

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