A commentor on the Hagfish Day post lamented that the photos of this animal never did it justice. I think we may have finally gotten one, don't you agree?
That photo accompanied the announcement of some research out of New Zealand: researchers have filmed for the first time how the hagfish uses its slime to defend itself. You can see how the attacking shark's mouth is filled with a cloud of slime almost instantaneously, and it leaves in disgust:
Other footage gathered by the scientists showed that hagfish, usually thought of as scavengers, are pretty nasty predators too. Yes, as we've noted before, they swim inside of carcasses and eat their way out, actually absorbing nutrients through their skin. But they also hunt, using those retracting dental plates in the photo to grab and start swallowing prey, then waiting for it to die before they finish. They might use their slime to suffocate it to hurry the process along, too.
The researchers also found that hunting technique also explains another curious hagfish ability: it can tie itself in a knot. One thing this behavior does is help give the hagfish leverage when pulling prey from a burrow. (Check out the pictures here.)
Join me in saluting the brave souls who can spend enough time with hagfish to discover all those astonishingly repulsive facts.
-Wombat (No Relation)