Pacific Hagfish at Home in a Deep Sea Sponge
If you’re searching for a Halloween costume then look no further – we’ve got you covered. Take inspo from one of the ocean’s most voracious scavengers, the Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii). These slender, pinkish, and exceptionally slimy primitive fish are found in cold waters around the world. If their bizarre looks haven’t convinced you, consider their even wackier biological makeup.
Hagfish lack a jaw, true eyes, stomach, and major parts of the brain. Because they can’t see, hagfish have an outstanding sense of smell and touch – four tentacles around their mouth help them to find prey while two pairs of teeth-like projections on their “rasping tongue” help tear and carry food into their mouth.
But wait, there’s more. Hagfish are infamous for a slime so intense that they sometimes have to “sneeze” it out when their nostrils get clogged. This slime is used as a defense mechanism that can suffocate would-be predators by clogging their gills. Hagfish can reach lengths of up to 64 centimeters (25 inches)! We spotted the purple-hued hagfish while it was inside a brightly colored yellow sponge. Its “roommates” included a squat lobster and shrimp.
This video was first captured in 2018 at a depth of 815 meters (2,673 feet) while we were exploring a deep-water sponge habitat with researchers from Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary near the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California.
The main objective of this expedition is to characterize an unexplored, deep-water region of basaltic rocky reef that resides southeast of Davidson Seamount, within the borders of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) to characterize habitat, species, and communities. Although extensive previous ROV dives have occured on the seamount proper, there is deep rocky habitat southeast of the seamount that could harbor additional communities of corals and sponges.