January 13, 2012—For the first time, scientists have recorded the defense strategy of the hagfish, which, when attacked, secretes slime from hundreds of pores on its body.
A shark sees an inviting meal: an eel-like fish with no visible defenses. But the shark is in for a big surprise! Choked with slime, oozing from hundreds of pores in the fish's body!
Researcher Vincent Zintzen from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and his colleagues went near New Zealand's Great Barrier Island, and dropped remote cameras.
Attached to the apparatus are blue lights to be as unobtrusive as possible, and a bait bag.
Here, at more than a 2,000 foot depth, some of the first to attack the bait were hagfish, also known as snot eels.
At one point, a kitefin shark uninterested in the bait, instead prefers the hagfish, but gets a mouthful of slime.
The slime fills the shark's mouth, clogs its gills, and chokes it.
The hagfish were seen repeatedly bitten by larger fish, all retreating with the same results.
Here, a catshark seems to be fine in biting down on the hagfish, but eventually, turns away as it, too, is gagged by slime.
More than a dozen prey attempts against the hagfish were recorded. Not one was successful.
Hagfish have been around more than 300 million years, pre-dating the dinosaurs.
Besides their ability to slime attackers, they're equipped with four rows of teeth.
Zintzen and his colleagues made 165 video deployments, and published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.