Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Pacific Hagfish

Eptatretus stoutii


Fun Facts

    Hagfish are considered to be the most primitive species of all living fish.

    A single hagfish can fill an entire barrel with slime in less than 100 minutes.



  Also known as slime eels, hagfish are primitive fishes that grow to about 25 inches long. They have five hearts, no jaws, no true eyes and no stomach. They have poor vision but a very good sense of smell and touch. Hagfish live in burrows in the deep sea 30-2,600 feet deep and locate their food, such as small invertebrates or decaying fishes, by smelling and feeling as they swim. They are noted for their unusual way of feeding; they swim into the carcass of dead fishes and eat them from the inside out, using their "rasping tongue" to move food into their funnel-shaped mouth.
Hagfish are notorious for their defensive slime. When secreted from the body, it mixes with the saltwater and becomes a slippery slime. Protein strands within the slime make it very sticky.
Anything that finds its way into the ocean, whether thrown away as trash, washed off a beach or dropped off a boat, may eventually make its way to the deep sea. It is important to understand that the deep sea is not so far away that it is beyond impact from humans. Organisms in the deep are affected by what we do at the surface.
To learn more about the deep sea habitat, visit the Open Ocean and Deep Sea Room at the Aquarium.