What has no eyes, no jaws and uses slimes to protect itself? The Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) – which is the creature that Kent, our manager of systems operations at the Vancouver Aquarium, nominated as April’s “Staff Pick of the Month.” Each month, one nomination of a sea creature submitted by staff and volunteers at the Aquarium is selected for this special title.
For Kent, the hagfish stands out from the rest of the Aquarium animals. “People do not tend to like it and it would make for a surprising staff pick.” Kent also says that they are “super gross, just look at them; plus they produce slime and they eat dead or injured marine animals from the inside.”
You read that right. Hagfish slither into dead or dying animals and use their rasping tongues to move food down their tubular mouths. They even eat absorb nutrients through their skin.
Despite not having any obvious fins, the hagfish is indeed a fish, although a primitive one. With no true eyes, no jaw and no stomach, it probably doesn’t look like any other fish you’ve seen before.
As Ken says, “They are definitely not…attractive creature(s). But at the end of the day, I have to remember that they are very important to our local ecosystem.” These “ugly” bottom feeders play an important role in recycling nutrients, thus creating a rich environment for other marine animals to live in.