THE HAGFISH – A SLIMY SEA CREATURE
The hagfish have been known to live around for hundreds and thousands of years and have highly evolved ever since their existence. The hagfish are disgusting alien-looking creatures that are commonly known to be the ugliest animal on the planet. In fact, for their peculiar disgusting outlook, the hagfish has earned a day in honor of its recognition, widely known as the ‘Hagfish-day’. Let’s know Are Hagfish Dangerous to Humans?
Hagfish day is celebrated on the 3rd Wednesday of October. This day is celebrated to acknowledge the fact that every creature, ugly or not, deserves to be celebrated, and everything that has come from nature is beautiful. The hagfish is so ancient that it remained unchanged for 300 million years.
The hagfish is also called ‘Snot eel’, and it is found 5000 feet below sea level. Very many people are unaware of the existence of this sea creature, and it is only fairly understandable as these creatures thrive in the depths deep below the ocean waters, so deep, that it does not leave room of possibility for the humans to reach the horizon even remotely near to their habitation.
To give you a fair idea about the depth of their dwelling, here is a perspective for easy understanding. At 330 feet below the sea level dwells the largest animal is known to have ever existed, the gigantic blue whale. At 535 feet is from where the water pressure intensely increases. And at 831 feet below the sea level was recorded the deepest free dive, after which most human lungs would crush. At 2250 feet is where the sperm whale and giant squid are known to be found, and at 2400 feet you reach the danger zone for modern nuclear attack, if submarines go any deeper, the hull would implode. At 2723 feet, the Burj Khalifa would reach, the world’s tallest building if submerged underwater. At 3280 feet you are so deep enough that the sunlight can’t reach you, it is known as the ‘Midnight zone’. Animals down here can’t see. Now, at 5000 feet down dwell the slimy disgusting creatures under the rocks, the ‘Hagfish’.
They are found in cold ocean weather and thrive in groups underwater. The hagfish can live 40 years in the ocean and 17 years in a protected environment.
THE CHARACTERISTICS FEATURES OF A HAGFISH
THE BODY STRUCTURE
The hagfish are the only known living animal with a skull but no spine. It is a dull pink-colored worm-like looking creature, with no true fins and single nostril. It is a jawless creature and absorbs the nutrients through its skin. As most of the sea creatures living in the midnight zone are almost blind, so is the hagfish. They use smell and touch to get around and swim in a snake-like fashion.
And to get them around through touch and smell, they have four pairs of sensing tentacles arranged around their mouth and two pairs of teeth like rasps on the top of the tongue-like projection. They hunt small invertebrates and spend most of the time buried in mud deep underwater with only the tip of their head out, they can spend hours underwater without air and lay a few dozen large eggs at a time.
Though they do not have spines, most of them have lungs and gills. The Hagfish’s skull is made of cartilage and no vertebrae. The Hagfish can’t bite, but they have a plate of toothy cartilage. It has a toothy throat and the tooth-like structure is composed of keratin. They have paddle-like tales to help them swim seamlessly.
Though this alien-looking creature might look utterly disgusting to you, it plays a vital role in cleaning up the ocean waters that humans royally trash day in day out. The Hagfish also helps recycle the dead animals from sea floors.
Though the name ‘Hagfish’ has ‘Fish’ in it, it lacks scales and fins. This weird-looking creature has two tongues and four hearts and no eyes or stomach, a skull without a spine made up of cartilage. With all this learned, it all makes sense as to why the outlook appears weirdly disgusting to human sensibilities.
The mucus is what the Hagfish are notorious for. When the Hagfish feels agitated or during the times when it gets attacked by other creatures, its body secretes mucus-like structures called slimy proteins. A slime can expand 10,000 times larger in under a second, underwater. The slime is produced as a defense mechanism to choke the predator’s throat when under attack.
The Hagfish slime is no normal substance, it is thick and doesn’t dry out quickly. This slime is 10 times stronger than the thick nylon fiber, 100 times thinner than the human hair, and 100000 times softer than Jell-O. One small teaspoon of slime could fill up a huge bucket in a few seconds. They have thread-like fibers that spread fast.
What do these bizarre-looking creatures prey on?
The Hagfish are opportunistic feeders they don’t deliberately lurk around to hunt, they mainly eat sea animals’ carcasses that have already been preyed upon. The Hagfish generally snack on small crabs and bristle worms. They hunt small invertebrates and spend most of the time buried in mud deep underwater with only the tip of their head out, they can spend hours underwater without air and lay a few dozen large eggs at a time.
The predators of Hagfish
The hagfish are sea creatures that are quite difficult to hunt. The Hagfish slime is not sticky but so strong that once tangled around the throat can choke the predator to death. And the Hagfish are notorious for it. And the slime spreads 10,000 times more in water, the water acts as a stimulator and encourages the slime to spread.
Even the sharks fear the slime, as the slime clogs the predator’s gills and chokes them to death. The Hagfish secretes their mucus from slime glands that run the length of their body. There’s no place you can bite a Hagfish without having slime come at you.
Only in a few remote cases do their predators include big fish with large gills and mammals with no gills or creatures with highly acidic stomachs that can easily digest or expel the slime can eat Hagfish and no other animal whatsoever.
ARE HAGFISH DANGEROUS TO HUMAN?
The Hagfish have no taste for humans as such. The humans are safe until the slime gets through their nose and throat. And once it does, it expands rapidly due to the water or liquids present on the walls lining down the nasal and the throat, after which there is no way out, it becomes deadly as it would make humans choke to death.
The Hagfish later feasts on the body of the humans after the slime does the job. But the Hagfish don’t naturally devour the human body. The Hagfish cannot bite humans, they can gnaw them away in groups in pieces after they die but not when they are alive.
The Hagfish are edible, but the slime is not. The human’s snack on Hagfish only after the slime is completely taken off, and slime secreting glands and the lining is completely wiped off. As a single half, a teaspoon of slime is just enough to take your life.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Hagfish slime used for?
The Hagfish slime can be used for ballistic protection, firefighting, anti-shark spray, anti-fouling liver protection. They are also used in environmentally-friendly fabric, safety helmets, kevlar vests, airbags, and can be also used as a hydrogel.
Can the hagfish be consumed by humans?
The Hagfish was not considered a dish until very recently. Due to the shortage of other fishes as the fish species are over-caught, humans have expanded their horizon of food options and moved to hagfish. The Hagfish has a gastronomic appeal in Korean cuisine and is widely consumed worldwide.
Can one tame a Hagfish under a protected environment?
A Hagfish lives 40 years in the ocean waters and only 17 years in the protected environment, and also the hagfish can’t breed under captivity.
How do Hagfish save itself from its slime?
The Hagfish ties itself into traveling knots that help them to eat and de-slime themselves. The Hagfish sneezes hard to prevent the slime from getting down its mouth hole or opening. The hard sneeze prevents the Hagfish from choking from its slime. The Hagfish ties itself into a knot to push off the slime from its pores. Knots are formed to keep the slime from dropping on its face.
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