1 minute read

Hagfishes: Myxini

Atlantic Hagfish (myxine Glutinosa): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Atlantic hagfishes are 18–31 inches (45–78 centimeters) long and grayish or reddish brown tubes. They are jawless and have four barbels around the mouth. The nose also is surrounded by four barbels. The eyespots are on top of the head and are covered with thick skin. Atlantic hagfishes have a single pair of gill openings. There are slime glands along the sides of the body.

Geographic range: Atlantic hagfishes are found on both sides of the North Atlantic Ocean, in the Arctic Ocean, and in the seas of Europe, except for the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea.

Habitat: Atlantic hagfishes live in deep waters of 328–984 feet (100–300 meters) on soft, muddy bottoms, in which they form burrows.

Using its biting plate, a hagfish pierces its food and bores into it, eating the soft insides and leaving only the bones and skin or shell. (Illustration by Jacqueline Mahannah. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Atlantic hagfishes feed on dead and dying fishes; crustaceans, such as hermit crabs and shrimps; and other small invertebrates (in-VER-teh-brehts), that is, animals that lack backbones.

Behavior and reproduction: Atlantic hagfishes use slime to protect themselves from predators (PREH-duh-ters), or animals that hunt them for food. Atlantic hagfishes may make both eggs and sperm for part of their life cycle, reproducing as either male or female at other times. Females produce twenty to thirty eggs.

Atlantic hagfishes and people: The skin of Atlantic hagfishes is processed into leather goods and sold as "eel" skin.

Conservation status: Atlantic hagfishes are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Gilbert, Carter Rowell, and James D. Williams. National Audubon Society Field Guide to Fishes: North America. New York: Knopf, 2002.

Schultz, Ken. Ken Schultz's Field Guide to Saltwater Fish. New York: Wiley, 2004.

Web sites:

Bigelow, Henry B., and William C. Schroeder. "Hagfish." Fishes of the Gulf of Maine. http://www.gma.org/fogm/Myxine_glutinosa.htm (accessed on August 28, 2004).

"Hagfish." OceanLink. http://oceanlink.island.net/oinfo/hagfish/hagfish.html (accessed on August 26, 2004).

"The Lowly Hag." Safari Splash. http://7thfloormedia.com/projects/safari/newsletter/wednesday/hagfish.html (accessed on August 26, 2004).

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