At first glance, the humble hagfish looks like just another species of ocean-dwelling eel, but they are something much weirder and at the same time fascinating. From the bizarre slime-like substance it produces as a defense mechanism, to the lack of a backbone, there’s a whole lot of weirdness to address.
The hagfish is a primitive, virtually blind creature that spends its life on the bottom of the ocean, slithering and feeding mostly on dead or dying fish. Among the several things that make the hagfish unique is its body structure. It has a skull, but no jaw and no vertebral column. This allows them to tie their bodies into knots in order to scrape the sticky slime they produce off of their skin. They can burrow into dead or dying animals through various orifices and even through their skin – using two rows of keratinous teeth – and devour them from the inside. But they don’t really need the teeth, as they can absorb nutrients through the skin and can go months without eating. Pretty freaky stuff, and we haven’t even talked about their slime-producing capabilities.
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