Thursday, September 25, 2008

Having the Slime of my Life: defensive reflexes in Myxiniformes

Some animals have unfortunate names.

The dik dik, for example.

Or the nudibranch.

Other animals not only have a funny name, but remind us that nature is not always beautiful. The naked mole rat springs to mind.

But my favourite animal in the aforementioned category is the hagfish. Hagfish resemble the earliest fish in that they have no lower jaw. Instead, they tear pieces off polychaete worms and dead fish. I am not sure whether it's their gummy, left-my false-teeth-out style of eating that gives them the name 'hags', but it seems appropriate.

Hagfish are also known, charmingly, as slime hags, due to their numerous mucus glands. This is what my textbook has to say about hagfish:

"A disturbed hagfish can produce enormous volumes of protective mucus; once released from the body, the mucus expands very rapidly and can completely fill a bucket containing the hagfish within minutes."

Disappointingly, it seems that there is no such creature as a fagfish, with whom these slimy, disturbed hags would presumably form a symbiotic relationship.

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