Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Horrible Hagfish

Yesterday I brought you the bread-secreting bowery bums. Today I bring you...the slime-secreting hagfish!

I love to read about disgusting animals, especially parasites. It instills in me a sense of nature's ingenuity and her unique code of aesthetics: lots of animals are horrible, but some of the most horrible animals are also the best adapted to their environment. Sometimes I feel like those pre-1930s naturalists who considered such animals to be degenerate abominations, and wrote treatises about how they had actual "devolved" due to laziness and immorality. Other times I can only marvel at their functional beauty.

I also like to read about horrible animals because I like to be grossed out.

So I happily present the hagfish. They're usually about 18 inches long and, like a lamprey, they can attach themselves to other fish and slowly eat them alive. But unlike the lamprey, the hagfish has a special ability to tie itself in knots...this ability gives it traction, allowing it to actually INSERT itself into other fish...and eat them from the inside out.

Hagfish can also produce HUGE amounts of fibrous slime...they can literally cocoon themselves in slime in just a few seconds, and can clean themselves off again by tying their bodies into a knot and slipping the knot back along their skin. Here's a video of a hagfish inside a slime can see it best halfway through.

WARNING: According to this link hagfish sometimes "burrow in the soft bottom." So if you've been feeling strange lately, grab a mirror and take a look. You don't want somebody ELSE to tell you.

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