Myxiniformes – Hagfish

Jawless, eel-like creatures with fossil evidence suggesting their presence dating back over 300 million years

Hagfish are truly extraordinary creatures, defined by their jawless mouths, lack of true vertebrae, and remarkable feeding habits. Instead of jaws, they possess a rasping tongue known as a “radula,” which they use to burrow into the flesh of deceased or dying animals. This distinctive adaptation allows them to access nutrient-rich tissues that are otherwise challenging to reach.

Adding to their distinctive features, hagfish boast slimy, scaleless bodies equipped with specialized mucous glands that enable them to unleash copious amounts of slime as a formidable defense mechanism when they sense danger. This unique trait makes them incredibly elusive and difficult to capture, even for would-be predators.

Hagfish are consummate scavengers, playing a pivotal role in the complex tapestry of marine ecosystems. They excel at feeding on carrion, contributing significantly to the rapid decomposition of deceased animals on the ocean floor. Their feeding strategies are as diverse as they are fascinating, including the ability to enter the bodies of larger prey through natural orifices like the anus or gills. This versatility allows them to extract nourishment from a wide range of sources, from dead and decaying organisms to opportunistically targeting weakened or distressed live fish.