Evolution of the inner ear: Insights from jawless fish

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Biosystems Dynamics (BDR) and collaborators have described for the first time the development of the hagfish inner ear. Published in the journal Nature, the study provides a new story for ...

Researchers explain the unique properties of hagfish slime

Hagfish are marine fish shaped like eels, famous for releasing large quantities of "slime" that unfolds, assembles and expands into the surrounding water in response to a threat or a predator's attack. This defense mechanism ...

Discovery sheds light on how vertebrates see

New research led by the University of Leicester has overturned a long-standing theory on how vertebrates evolved their eyes by identifying remarkable details of the retina in the eyes of 300 million year-old lamprey and hagfish ...

Gloop from the deep sea

ETH scientists are researching the unusual secretions of the hagfish. Over the next three years, the researchers will try to find out how this natural hydrogel can be harnessed for human use.

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Hagfish are marine craniates of the class Agnatha or Myxini, also known as Hyperotreti. Some researchers regard Myxini as not belonging to the subphylum Vertebrata. That is, they are the only living animals that have a skull but not a vertebral column.

Despite their name, there is some debate about whether they are strictly fish (as there is for lampreys), since they belong to a much more primitive lineage than any other group that is placed in the category of fish (Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes). The earliest fossil record dates back approximately 550 million years, or earlier to the Lower Cambrian period. Their unusual feeding habits and slime-producing capabilities have led members of the scientific community and popular media to dub the hagfish as the most "disgusting" of all sea creatures. Although hagfish are sometimes called "slime eels", they are not eels at all.

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