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Hagfish predatory behaviour and slime defence mechanism
Zintzen, V.; Anderson, M.J.; Stewart, A.L.; Struthers, C.D.; Harvey, E.S. (2011). Hagfish predatory behaviour and slime defence mechanism. NPG Scientific Reports 1(131): 6 pp. dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep00131
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

Available in Authors 

Keywords
    Defence mechanisms; Feeding behaviour; Myxinidae Rafinesque, 1815 [WoRMS]; Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Zintzen, V., more
  • Anderson, M.J.
  • Stewart, A.L.
  • Struthers, C.D.
  • Harvey, E.S.

Abstract
    Hagfishes (Myxinidae), a family of jawless marine pre-vertebrates, hold a unique evolutionary position, sharing a joint ancestor with the entire vertebrate lineage. They are thought to fulfil primarily the ecological niche of scavengers in the deep ocean. However, we present new footage from baited video cameras that captured images of hagfishes actively preying on other fish. Video images also revealed that hagfishes are able to choke their would-be predators with gill-clogging slime. This is the first time that predatory behaviour has been witnessed in this family, and also demonstrates the instantaneous effectiveness of hagfish slime to deter fish predators. These observations suggest that the functional adaptations and ecological role of hagfishes, past and present, might be far more diverse than previously assumed. We propose that the enduring success of this oldest extant family of fishes over 300 million years could largely be due to their unique combination of functional traits.

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