By Carl Zimmer | August 11, 2010 5:50 pm

Caught hagfish440I’ve been waiting a long time to see a hagfish in person. Last year I took a class miles out to sea, hauled up traps from 300 feet, and came up with nothing but mud. Today, however, we discovered not just one hagfish–but fifty. Buckets full of squirming jawless beasts that seemed to slither straight out of the Cambrian Period. Their slime is more like a jelly made of glass–a marvelous thing. I am here to declare that a day with fifty hagfish is a good day.

(For more, read “Secrets of the Slime Hag” (pdf)” in Scientific American by Frederic Martini)

[Image courtesy of Charlotte Zimmer, age 9]


Comments (12)

Links to this Post

  1. More Like Gagfish | Sci-ence! A Skeptical Comic and Blog. | August 12, 2011
  1. Rand All

    Hagfish are gross and cool at the same time. Same as lampreys.
    Also, did your daughter take that photo? If so, then that’s adorable.

    [CZ: Yep, that’s my kid.]

  2. Nice picture. Charlotte’s got talent.

  3. Rand All

    Hurray for awesome dads teaching their kids about the wonders of nature!
    My dad got me into science as well.

  4. rob

    When ever you want to see hagfish come up to Glocuester Mass….This is one of the few ports on the east coast that still lands hagfish in large numbers.
    and I, as a NOAA port agent, get the fun of sampling them (length data). Both live and dead….lots of fun! ;P

  5. David B. Benson

    What are you going to do with 50 hagfish?

    Seen one, seen ’em all I say…

  6. We took four back for a biology class and tossed the rest back in the water. They slithered back down into the abyss. Still, it was cool to stick one’s hand into a trap full of dozens of the beasts!

  7. Michael Bacarella

    A Perfect Day for Hagfish

  8. Carl,

    On your Lecture at the American Society for Microbiology video (a few posts back), you are so gentle and handsome!

    After reading over many blogs here at Discover Mag for quite some time now, it has come to mind that all the blogs are superb (in their won right) and I am aware that everyone has different styles. We also know what the aim of this magazine is but something about Carl’s writing makes just the right kind of balance, at least for this magazine somehow – not understated, nor too long winded but direct with a lot of thought (actually Carl’s topics are not my first choice, I tend to prefer other subjects in science really) but they are made interesting, so that is why I think the writing works.

    Anyway, I have probably put my foot in it! Lol!


  9. John Kwok

    Hi Carl,

    Charlotte does have talent. Where was this taken? Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island, off the coast of New Hampshire?



  10. Sven DiMilo
  11. Meri

    any groundfish boat will pull up a fish or two bloated with hags….they escape from every orifice of the fish once on deck; then there’s the race to get the things back in the water before the whole deck is “slimed.” Funnny too – those “elegant eel wallets” aren’t eels at all, but hagfish…ports like NB and Gloucester ship em, but I don’t know who eats them …it is a consumed fish….not to my taste though


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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