Shark Slimed by Snot Eels

By B. McPherson

Researchers in New Zealand have shown that hagfish or snot eels have a unique defense system. They slime their enemies. Even Ghost Busters would find this creature hard to deal with. The scientists lowered cameras and bait to the ocean floor off New Zealand and observed sharks thinking that they had an easy meal as the hag fish gathered for a buffet.

When the sharks bit down on the seemingly defenseless eels they got a mouthful of mucus extruded from hundreds of pores in the creatures skin. The mucus clogs the sharks’ mouths and gills forcing the predators to release the icky animal.

Hagfish, snot eel, slime eel this creature is called by many names but it is neither a fish nor an eel. It’s in a category by itself, a survivor from prehistoric times. It lacks jaws and uses a ring of bony teeth to rasp its way into rotting flesh and will sometimes finish off a dying animal as well.

While their eating habits may make us recoil, the BerkleyEducation Department chooses the word “Lovecraftian”, these creatures occupy the dark, benthic deeps, they have three hearts but no bones, no cerebrum, no cerebellum, are almost blind and start out life as hermaphrodites, yet they are believed to have survived on rotting flesh for 300 million years.

Even these unlovely creatures have a commercial value. High end leather goods are made from their skins and sold as “eel skin”.  Also some cultures value the flesh of the hagfish for food. The site, eHow Food  addresses the popularity of the animal as food in Korea.

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