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Hagfishes: Myxini

Physical Characteristics

Hagfishes look like eels and are about 18–30 inches (46–76 centimeters) long. The skeleton is made up of cartilage (KAR-teh-lej), or tough, bendable tissue, rather than bone. Hagfishes have no fins or scales—flat, rigid plates that act as body covering. They do not have jaws but have two raspy, or rough, biting plates. The mouth is an oval slit surrounded by four barbels (BAR-buhls), which are long, thin feelers used for finding food. The single nostril is surrounded by another set of barbels. The eyes are two dents on the top of the head that are covered by skin, and the fishes probably cannot see with them. Hagfishes have six to ten pairs of gills, or breathing organs, which may open directly to the outside or join to form one gill opening. The color of hagfishes ranges from reddish brown to grayish pink. Hagfishes have about 100 to 150 slime glands along the sides of their bodies.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceFish and Other Cold-Blooded VertebratesHagfishes: Myxini - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Hagfishes And People, Atlantic Hagfish (myxine Glutinosa): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS