The Atlantic hagfish, also known as Myxine glutinosa, is a weight deep-sea creature. It has been primarily observed in the Atlantic Ocean.
The largest Hagfish, Eptatretus goliath, can grow to more than four feet long. Its body is coated with specialized glands that can secrete a sticky slime. A single hagfish can generate enough slime at one time to fill a large jug. This is why the title “slime eel” is bestowed upon Hagfish.
Here are six facts about these dirty devils:
- Description: Hagfish have a long eel-like shape, with a flattened tail. This means that their tail is narrow on the sides and more elongate at the top and bottom, almost as if it were flattened between a set of hands on either side. Their skin is extremely loose, and their heads are made essentially of cartilage rather than bone. These fish range in color from blue to pink and grey, and they are sometimes covered in spots. Hagfish have a simple circulatory system with four hearts: the main one serves as the central pump, while the other three serve as auxiliary pumps.
- Breathing: Hagfish breathe through their nasopharyngeal duct, which leads to their gill pouches via pharynx. Several species have between 5 and 15 pairs of gills. Hagfish also have an extensive network of capillaries in their skin, which allow them to “breathe” through their skin when immersed in mud.
- Disgusting: The Atlantic hagfish has been considered the most disgusting and nastiest little creature in the sea. Why? Because they bury themselves in dead animals and eat them from the inside out. The primary and favorite dish of hagfish is polychaete worms.
- Releasing Slime: Hagfish slime is more like a gel made of filaments. The slime sets up fast and is amazingly good at sticking to and closing gills, so fish typically cancel their attacks on hagfishes because they can’t deal with the slime. A hagfish sneezes when its nostrils are filled with slime. Hagfish slime is different than any other natural slime secretion and it is augmented with tiny fibers. These fibers make the slime strong and challenging to remove. It is understood that the hagfish uses this slime to protect itself from enemies. It can also be used to produce a protective cocoon for the hagfish quickly. It is studied that this slime can suffocate predators by clogging their gills. Hagfish can even repel a shark using slime. The hagfish has a trick for avoiding this slime envelope. This creature can tie itself in a knot and then pass the knot down the length of its body to remove the slime away. Smart?
- Primitive eyes: Hagfish don’t have complex eyes like us that can resolve images, but instead maintains single eyespots to detect light. In some species, the eyespots are hidden by the skin. Hagfish depend on their well-developed senses of touch and smell to find food and navigate. They have numerous pairs of barbels, sensing tentacles, around their mouths, and a single nostril on their head.
- Boneless without a jaw: Hagfish are the only known surviving animals with a skull without a spine. Their skeleton is made up completely of cartilage. Like lampreys, they are jawless; instead, they have a pair of horizontally moving structures with tooth-like projections to grasp and tear off foods.