10 Amazing Facts About Hagfish!

Here at Benthic Labs, we are Hagfish crazy! There aren’t many like us as Hagfish are widely considered to be the most disgusting animals on earth. Don’t believe us? See for yourself!

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Image Hagfish are eel-like, slime producing fish who live on the sea bed or benthic region (which inspired our name). While their outward appearance can make many uneasy, Hagfish are incredibly fascinating creatures. Coming up are 10 fantastic facts to give you an appreciation of these unusual animals:

  1. Hagfish are often called “slime eels”. However they are in the class Agnatha along with lampreys. This class of animals incorporates jawless fish. There are 76 species of Hagfish the world over and approximately 100 species in the class Agnatha.
  2. Hagfish are referred to as “living fossils” as they strongly resemble fossils of their 300 million year old ancestors. This does not mean that Hagfish have stopped evolving, rather that their body plan and strategy is still very successful today.
  3. Hagfish are famous (or infamous!) for the milky and fibrous slime which they produce in copious amounts when threatened. It is an incredible adaptation which it secretes upon contact with a predator. An excellent example can be seen here.
  4. This slime contains fibres which are 10 times stronger than nylon and 100 times thinner than a human hair. We are excited to see what applications this fibre may have. Another very cool video.
  5. Very little is known about Hagfish reproduction. Only one of the 76 species has been successfully bred in captivity. Hagfish are thought to be hermaphroditic with a sex ratio of 100:1 in favour of females observed in many species.
  6. Hagfish are scavengers and while jawless, they have two rows of tooth-like keratin structures which they use to burrow into the carcasses of dead fish and whales resting on the seabed. They are known for eating their prey from the inside out.
  7. Hagfish often tie themselves in overhand knots while feeding to prevent them choking on their own slime. This results in them “sneezing” out the slime from their nostril.
  8. Hagfish can take up nutrients through their skin and gills.
  9. 12% of species of Hagfish are at a high risk of extinction.
  10. Hagfish are usually not eaten on account of their looks, their viscosity and unpleasant habits. One species, however, the inshore Hagfish, is valued in the Korean Peninsula. It is agitated to produce its slime which is used in a similar manner to egg whites in various forms of cookery. Tasty!
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