Hagfish Slime Is No Laughing Matter


There’s been a lot of news lately about the hagfish, that scrappy little eel-like creature that slithers and squirms about its day not really caring much about what those around it think of it.

Personally, I used to see them everywhere in the seafood tanks of Seoul, South Korea. I didn’t really think about them, aside from having a few slang terms for them, as everyone did. But look at it, it’s a creature that’s just about as alien to us as anything could get.

It has a skull, but nothing we would call a spine. The only creature on Earth which exists this way. They grow to be about one-half of a meter long, their skin fits them like a duffel bag, and under it sits their slime glands.

That’s right, slime glands.

These glands are the last line of defense for the hagfish, and when they deploy, they deploy hard. One teaspoon full of the gooey liquid they spew inflates to enough to fill a bucket in a about a second. Imagine putting your hand into a mucus-like substance and then having it envelop it with a tightness to which you have trouble pulling it out.

It is definitely kind of like the blob.

But what about when it happens to cars? You’re in luck, we have a picture of that, too!

Slime eels, otherwise known as Pacific hagfish, cover Highway 101. (REUTERS)

As noted above, hagfish are quite the catch in South Korea. In July of 2017 a flatbed truck full of them overturned near Depoe Bay in Oregon, spilling the hagfish, and their slime, across the highway. The slime covered the road, cars, and anything around it until it was done expanding. The fish were headed to port to be shipped eastward, where they even use the slime as an egg-substitute in some dishes.

But it’s not just food that we use them for as humans. Many of the products we use that are labeled as “eel skin” actually come from the hagfish, which dries and morphs similarly to that of an eel. So the next time you go to pay for something, think about it, what’s on your wallet?

– Todd Allen Williams, Senior Editor