Can A Hagfish Kill You? Laying An Age-long Confusion To Rest

Can A Hagfish Kill You

The hagfish is a true deep-sea monster. While the word “fish” may be off the mark, “hag” is not. 

The hagfish is often regarded as one of the world’s ugliest animals, as it has practically every trait that we find unpleasant in animals.

It appears peaceful enough, sitting on the bottom of the tank with its catfish-like. However, just behind these whiskers, hidden out of sight, is a mouth so scary.

This creepy mouth has two pairs of comb-shaped teeth that draw in and out on a cartilaginous plate. However, hagfish always consume their prey from the inside out. 

First, let’s answer this question.

Can a hagfish kill you?

No, the hagfish cannot kill you. 

Hagfish lack jaws, but they do contain two rows of keratin-based “teeth.” Instead, they use a plate of toothy cartilage in their teeth to rasp away at carcasses.

The stomach contents of this fish have revealed that it can only eat dead whales, fish, sharks, birds, and even dead humans. 

They will swim inside a carcass and consume the dead animals from the inside out once torn apart. 

Are The Hagfish Edible?

Although hagfish have been in existence for many centuries, they’re found all over the world. Koreans only consume them. 

Hagfish are commonly peeled alive and fried with onion and garlic in Korean fish markets. Hagfish struggles in snotty circles until they are killed, fried, sliced, and garnished with a red pepper sauce. 

They can also be grilled in sesame oil, salted, and accompanied with a shot of whiskey. The hagfish meal is used as an aphrodisiac, just like many other phallus-like animals.

How A Hagfish Feeds On Its Prey

The feeding process of a hagfish begins with it fastening itself to a moving fish. It then bores its way inside its unlucky prey once securely attached. 

With a specialized gurgling mouth, the hagfish will consume the flesh of the fish once inside. Thus, this hagfish devours its prey from within. 

However, if no large prey is available, hagfish will eat worms and other small invertebrates they locate on the ocean floor. 

Hagfish have a prolonged metabolism and can survive without food for months at a time.

Hagfish Reproductive Behavior 

The reproductive behaviors of the hagfish are primarily unknown. However, some hagfish species were found to be hermaphroditic, which implies they are both male and female. 

The female hagfish can lay up to 30 eggs, each of which is tough and yolky. The velcro-like projections on the ends of these eggs cause them to cling together. 

Hagfish are frequently seen coiled around their eggs. However, it is unknown whether they brood the eggs. The newly hatched offspring are almost exact replicas of their parents. 

They are all initially hermaphroditic at birth. But as the hagfish mature, the fish may change to either male or female. That is, they can switch sexes from one season to the next. 

Hagfish have a low mortality rate because local hagfish populations can be as large as 15,000. 

Hagfish Social behavior

The majority of hagfish species are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night. They retreat into caves in the mud or sand on the seafloor during the day. 

They can go up to a few months between meals since their metabolism is so poor. Some species live alone, while others dwell in big groups. The majority of the hagfish will gather around a large carcass and feast together.

Hagfish And Humans

Fishers consider these fish to be a nuisance since they are slimy. In addition, they often prey on caught fish before they are lifted to the surface. 

Deep trawl nets that gather prey along the seafloor have difficulties in pulling slime fish to the surface. Although the slime prevents these fish from being eaten, the inshore hagfish is eaten in Korea.

Furthermore, hagfish do not make good pets because they make so much slime. Hence, their environment would have to be cleaned on a near-daily basis.

The Strength Of Hagfish Slime

Hagfish slime is a protein-based, gelatinous substance that hagfish produce to protect themselves from predators.

The slime is composed of tougher strands than nylon yet thinner and more flexible than a human hair.

Hagfish slime is five times stronger than steel and have a tensile strength (the amount of stress it can sustain before breaking) and the lightness of spider silk. In addition, Hagfish slime is utilized to make durable, environmentally friendly cloth because of its peculiar qualities. 

Furthermore, the hagfish slime has many other uses that are now being investigated.

Protective Features Of The Hagfish Slime

When a hagfish is under attack, it produces its slime. This jelly slime is released through slime pores that run the length of the fish’s body. 

The slime is made up of mucin, a viscous glycoprotein secretion found in mucus. Long, thread-like threads, akin to spider silk, make up the mucin. 

The strands are so tiny compared to human hair. These strands are grouped in skeins, are more rigid than nylon and incredibly flexible. 

The glue that holds the skeins together breaks when they come into touch with seawater. The skin’s contact causes the slime to expand rapidly. 

When a hagfish gets stuck in its slime, it untangles itself by tying its body in a knot. The mud is then pushed off the end as it unties the knot down the entire span of its body.

Hagfish slime does not dry out like other varieties of mucus. One hagfish can fill a five-gallon container with dirt in just a few minutes. The silt fills the hagfish’s attacker’s mouth and gills, allowing the hagfish to flee. 

Uses Of Hagfish Slime

Scientists are highly interested in the possible uses of hagfish slime because of its strength, elasticity, and fast expansion. 

However, collecting the substance directly from hagfish is both expensive and traumatic for the fish. Hence, researchers are exploring new ways to make artificial slime.

You can use Hagfish slime in a variety of ways. 

Eel Skin bags:

Hagfish are already used to make items like “eel-skin” bags.

The robust, flexible fabrics that you obtain from hagfish slime might be used to replace petroleum-based materials such as nylon. Thus, this makes the fabric environmentally friendly and more durable. 

Protective gears:

Hagfish slime could be used in safety helmets and Kevlar vests.

Vehicle Airbags:

Hagfish slime could be used in airbags. In addition, the slime gives strength, durability, and flexibility to car parts in the automotive industry. 


According to researchers, hagfish slime could be utilized to make hydrogels used in disposable diapers and farm irrigation systems.

In the military:

The hagfish slime is a potential tool in “cutting-edge military technology.” Recently, the United States Navy is experimenting with hagfish slime. They hope to develop a chemical that can defend divers from underwater attacks, combat fires, and perhaps halt missiles. 

In Medicine:

The most promising use of hagfish slime is in biomedicine. Since the slime expands when in contact with salty blood, you can use it to stop bleeding in accident patients during surgical procedures. 

Furthermore, you can use hagfish slime to produce biomedical devices and biosensors. You can also apply the slime in tissue engineering and replace injured tendons because of its stretch property.

Seven Fun Facts About hagfish

You may not know most of the fascinating things about the sea monster, hagfish. Let’s discuss some of them here.   

They have four hearts:

Hagfish have a four-heart circulatory system. One part functions as the main pump, and the other three as auxiliary pumps.

They breathe through their nose and exhale through their skin:

The nasal duct, which connects the throat and gill chambers, allows hagfish to gulp in water. 

There are 5 to 15 pairs of gills in different species. In addition, hagfish have a comprehensive capillary network in their skin, which could allow them to “breathe” through their skin when buried in clay.

Hagfish lack vision but possess other sharp senses:

Hagfish have simple eyespots that can detect light rather than compound eyes that can resolve images. 

The skin in some species conceals the eyespots. Hagfish rely on just one nostril on their heads and multiple pairs of detecting tentacles surrounding their mouths to obtain food. 

They’re experts at slimming:

Hagfish have glands running along the sides of their bodies that create vast amounts of the slimy, fibrous substance. This slime aids them in repelling or evading predators. One of the slime’s functions could be to choke attackers’ gills.

The hagfish will wrap itself in a loop and work it from head to tail to get rid of its slime. If the hagfish’s nose becomes clogged with slime, it will “sneeze” to empty it.

Hagfish have slug skin:

They don’t have scales. Hence, their skin is sock-like. In addition, they have loose-fitting sock-like skin that varies in color from pink to blue-gray.

Hagfish is the future of fiber: 10. Hagfish slime has the potential to become the fiber of the future. Hagfish slime comprises 1000s of protein threads that are 100 times thinner than human hair. 

The threads are powerful and resemble spider thread when stretched and dried. Scientists believe that hagfish slime, like spider silk, might be stitched together to create super-strong materials. 

Researchers can use Hagfish slime to make stronger materials than plastic or nylon, with applications ranging from bulletproof vests to artificial tissues.

Final Note

The hagfish cannot kill you. Being a fish without jaw but extended tooth-like projections, the hagfish prefers to bury itself deep into human carcasses. 

Although it is a deep-sea, spineless fish, the hagfish possesses enough special abilities to ridicule humans.

These lengthy, eel-like fish have incredible defenses. These defense skills include the ability to trap predators with slime. They also perform remarkable offenses like tying themselves in knots to tear flesh from dead and rotting carcasses.


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