The Mighty Powers of Hagfish Slime

My high-school pal Sherry Mowbray, who grew up to be a top-flight biologist, points me with glee to this video illustrating how powerful is the slime secreted by the awesome hagfish.

     Posted By: Paul - Wed Sep 10, 2008
     Category: Animals | Science | Experiments | Body Fluids

Big Gary--Mmmmm, hagfish!
Posted by Paul on 09/10/08 at 12:11 PM
How do these things even swim without turning their local area into sludge? Can they swim through the sludge? Where can I find a hagfish for use in tormenting my co-workers?
Posted by kingmonkey in Athens, Ontario on 09/10/08 at 12:37 PM
kingmonkey - Judging from the video they only emit the slime-inducing-agent when attacked or startled or something, out of defense. I assume it looses it's potency after a while as well. I wonder what the max amount of water is that it will turn to sludge? And does that eventually break down and revert back to water? Or are there huge piles of slime at the bottom of the where these things live? I'm not going to get any more work done today looking all this up...
Posted by Jules in Connecticut on 09/10/08 at 12:48 PM
Kingmonkey and Jules--we here at WU eagerly anticipate your hagfish findings!
Posted by Paul on 09/10/08 at 12:50 PM
WINKIPEDIA::: Hagfish are long and vermiform, and can exude copious quantities of a sticky slime or mucus (from which the typical species Myxine glutinosa was named). When captured and held by the tail, they escape by secreting the fibrous slime, which turns into a thick and sticky gel when combined with water, and then cleaning off by tying themselves in an overhand knot which works its way from the head to the tail of the animal, scraping off the slime as it goes. Some authorities conjecture that this singular behavior may assist them in extricating themselves from the jaws of predatory fish. The "sliming" also seems to act as a distraction to predators, and free-swimming hagfish are seen to "slime" when agitated and will later clear the mucus off by way of the same traveling-knot behavior.
An adult hagfish can secrete enough slime to turn a large bucket of water into gel in a matter of minutes.

nothing about the max amount or if it dissolves though...further research is necessary...
Posted by Jules in Connecticut on 09/10/08 at 12:57 PM
more winkipedia: In recent years hagfish have become of special interest for genetic analysis investigating the relationships among chordates. It has also recently been discovered that the mucus excreted by the hagfish is unique in that it includes strong, threadlike fibres similar to spider silk. What is interesting about hagfish slime is that it is fibre-reinforced. No other slime secretion known is reinforced with fibres in the way hagfish slime is. The fibres are about as fine as spider silk (averaging 2 micrometres), but can be 12 cm long. When the coiled fibres leave the hagfishes' 'slime' gland, they unravel quickly to their full length without tangling. Research continues into potential uses for this or a similar synthetic gel or of the included fibres. Some possibilities include new biodegradable polymers, space-filling gels, or a means of stopping blood flow in accident victims and surgery patients.

Interesting uses!
Posted by Jules in Connecticut on 09/10/08 at 12:59 PM
More importanyl, how will the slime fare in, say, a pot of hot coffee? Will it break down, or will it still turn the coffee into sludge? How does hagfish slime taste? These are the things I need to know.
Posted by kingmonkey in Athens, Ontario on 09/10/08 at 03:49 PM
Kingmon key--does the slime have any possible beauty treatment uses? We could get rich! "Hagfish slime, instead of botox!"
Posted by Paul on 09/10/08 at 04:28 PM
Rhiannon--I did not catch that episode. Thanks for the tip!
Posted by Paul on 09/11/08 at 01:23 PM
Nick--gar beat hagfish for scariness just on size alone!
Posted by Paul on 09/11/08 at 01:23 PM
Rodger--we're too mesmerized by the slime!
Posted by Paul on 09/11/08 at 01:24 PM
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