Mar 2, 2011

Inside-Out Sea Life

We've seen the hagfish - also called the slime eel - before on this blog, and how could we not? It fits right in here, and not just for its gray, limp, featureless, basically gross appearance.

The names used for this species can be misleading. It's definitely not an eel, and it might not even be a fish, because it's got no spine and its skeleton is made entirely of cartilage. (Note to hagfish: if you want to be classfied as a type of vertebrate, you need to have vertebrae. Sorry.)

But the "slime" part is right on the mark, and this is their revolting glory: when disturbed or threatened, they ooze out unbelievable amounts of disgusting goop.

You can see a lovely video demonstration of this ability here, but actually, the inspiration for today's post is an entirely different ugly fact about the hagfish.

These guys have rather repulsive eating habits: they're scavengers, and they will swim inside a dead carcass and eat their way out. (Using the lovely mouthparts in the photo above, which you can see a enlarged version of here, if you're sure you want to.)

And now, a researcher has discovered that they don't do this just to get at the tasty inner parts first. They immerse themselves in their meal of rotting food because they eat through their skin. Seriously: their skin actually absorbs nutrients faster than their intestines.

Some animals have adaptations that we envy. Who wouldn't like to fly, or see in the dark, or - my favorite - sleep through the winter? But you know what, hagfish? That's ok - you can keep yours.

-Thanks anyway,
Wombat (No Relation)

Thanks to the award winning blog Not Exactly Rocket Science, perfect for all your science needs.

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