Living in the deep dark sea and swimming around without being able to see. That’s just one of the things that makes hagfish interesting. Hagfish are interesting creatures that are also called slime eels because of their appearance but they are actually jawless fish.
Where does the Hagfish Live?
There are around 76 species of hagfish living in cold waters around the world. The largest of them can grow up to four feet whereas the smallest of them is hardly a few inches long. They prefer living near the soft ocean floor where they can bury themselves if threatened.
10 Interesting Facts about the Hagfish – Seemingly Repulsive Species
- Sock skin: Hagfish do not have scales. They have loose fitting sock like skin that ranges from pinkish to blue-gray in color.
- Hearts and hearts: Hagfish have 4 hearts! That’s right. The slimy fish has one heart which serves as the main pump and three other accessory pumps.
- Skin breathers: Hagfish can breathe through a well-developed network of capillaries in their skin. They also have anywhere between 5 to 15 gills depending on the species, which help them breathe.
- No sight: Hagfish do not have compound eyes, but instead have eye spots that detect light. In some hagfish, even these spots are covered by skin. This doesn’t mean they can’t find their way around the ocean however. Hagfish have a very well-developed sense of hearing and smell which lets them navigate and find food quite easily. They also have several barbels and sensing tentacles around their mouth.
- Jawless but not toothless: Well, they’re not exactly teeth, but hagfish have two rows of tooth-like keratin structures that they use to bite off food and burrow into the ground.
- Tail torque: Hagfish tie their tails into knots when eating live prey to generate torque and increase the force of their attacks. Resourceful, eh?
- No evolution: The only hagfish fossil is around 330 million years old, but it is hardly different from the hagfish today. Which indicates that whatever evolution happened then is working pretty well for them.
- They can go months without eating: Hagfish have slow enough metabolisms to be able to survive months between feedings.
- Slime masters: Hagfish are notoriously called slimy eels because of this disgusting instinct of theirs. They produce quite an amount of slime and chuck it at their predators to escape. The can produce litres of slime in a matter of minutes! They have slime glands along their body that help them do this. To clean themselves off they knot themselves and scrape it off. To clear a slimy nostril, they sneeze.
- Futuristic fibre: Hagfish slime contains tens of thousands of pretty strong protein threads that scientists believe can be woven into fabric. Just like spider-silk, hagfish-slime-fibre would be super strong and could have a number of potential uses.
Although they are pretty slimy and can seem quite disgusting, hagfish actually play an important role in maintaining the health of the ocean. Sadly, quite a few of hagfish species are nearing endangerment and need conscious efforts from our side for their protection.