Today’s Ghosts and Gills features a very villainous character indeed. The hag is an unattractive and deceitful witch capable of nasty tricks and evil magic. Think of the wicked witch in Hansel and Gretel. She lured young children to her home with promises of sweets (and the temptation of her gingerbread house), only to capture them, fatten them up and eat them.
Well our ocean hag wouldn’t quite be capable of any of that. Today’s creepy critter is… The hagfish! The hagfish is an eel-like creature that differentiates itself from morays by being a chordate rather than a vertebrate. In fact, it is one of the few animals on the planet that has a skull but no spine. The hagfish is considered a living fossil since it has hardly changed in 300 million years.
Hagfish are especially famous for the slime that they produce. We aren’t just talking about slimy skin. They can fill a whole bucket full of thick, gooey slime in seconds. In fact, when combined with water one hagfish can produce 20 liters of slime in one go.
It is thought that this response is a way to evade predators, and we would think that this is a pretty effective technique! It is also thought that the slime was evolved not only to slip away but to clog the gills of any predators. Check out this video from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
People are repulsed by the hagfish’s slime, well maybe everyone except some in the Korean Peninsula who consider this slime a delicacy and eat it like egg whites. People like to eat some slimy things (like jellyfish, for example!)
Fun fact: Aside from sliming, hagfish are capable of tying themselves in a knot in order to escape a predator’s grip. They loop one end into a knot and slide the knot along their bodies to finally push free, thanks to the slippery slime.
The hagfish has a scary name and an ugly reputation, but judging from the amount of videos there are of its behavior online, we’d say it is also a very fascinating fish. We have never posted 3 videos in one blog before!