hagfish


hagfish
/hag"fish'/, n., pl. (esp. collectively) hagfish, (esp. referring to two or more kinds or species) hagfishes.
any eellike, marine cyclostome of the order Myxiniformes, having undeveloped eyes, a barbel-rimmed, circular mouth, and horny teeth for boring into the flesh of fishes to feed on their interior parts. See illus. in next column.
[1605-15; HAG1 + FISH]

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Any of about 30 species of primitive jawless fishes in two families of the class Agnatha.

The Myxinidae are found in every ocean; the Eptatretidae are found everywhere but the North Atlantic. Hagfishes are eel-like, scaleless, and soft-skinned and have paired thick barbels on the end of the snout. Species grow to 16–32 in. (40–80 cm) long. They have a cartilaginous skeleton. The mouth is a slitlike, sucking opening with horny teeth. Found in cold seawater, to depths of over 4,000 ft (1,200 m), they habitually lie buried in burrows on soft bottoms. They eat invertebrates and dead or crippled fishes, and may bore their way into the bodies of fish caught on lines or in nets and eat the fish from the inside. They secrete extraordinary amounts of slime when handled. See also lamprey.

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▪ marine vertebrate
also called  slime eel,  
 any of about 70 species of marine vertebrates placed with the lampreys in the superclass Agnatha. Although most classifications place all hagfishes in the family Myxinidae, they are sometimes divided into two families: Myxinidae, represented in every ocean, and Eptatretidae, represented everywhere but the North Atlantic.

      Eel-like in shape, hagfishes are scaleless, soft-skinned creatures with paired thick barbels on the end of the snout. Depending on the species, they grow to about 40 to 100 cm (16 to 40 inches) long. Primitive vertebrates, hagfishes have a tail fin (but no paired fins) and no jaws or bones. Their skeletons are cartilaginous, and their mouths are round or slitlike openings provided with horny teeth. The poorly developed eyes are buried under the skin, and there is a single nostril at the end of the snout. Five to 15 pairs of gills are used for respiration. The gill pairs share a common opening on each side in members of the family Myxinidae but open separately on the surface in those of the family Eptatretidae.

      Hagfishes are found in cold seawater, to depths of about 1,300 m (4,260 feet). They live on soft bottoms, in burrows, and habitually lie buried except for the tip of the head. Their diet includes marine invertebrates and dead or crippled fishes. Sometimes, to the detriment of fishermen, hagfishes attack fish caught on lines or in nets, boring their way into the bodies and eating the fish from the inside. To deter predators, hagfish have special pores along the body that secrete copious amounts of slime. For this reason, they are sometimes known as slime eels.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • hagfish — [hag′fish΄] n. pl. hagfish or hagfishes (see FISH) [ HAG1 + FISH] any of an order (Myxiniformes) of small, eel like marine jawless fishes, with a round, sucking mouth and horny teeth …   English World dictionary

  • Hagfish — Hag fish ( f[i^]sh ),n.(Zo[ o]l.) See {Hag}, 4. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Hagfish — For the punk rock band, see Hagfish (band). Hagfish Pacific hagfish resting on the ocean bottom, at 280 m depth off the Oregon coast. Scientific classification Kingdom …   Wikipedia

  • hagfish — /ˈhægfɪʃ/ (say hagfish) noun (plural hagfish or hagfishes) any of the eel like marine cyclostomes constituting the group or order Hyperotreta, notable especially for their circular suctorial mouth and their habit of boring into the bodies of… …   Australian English dictionary

  • hagfish — Hag Hag (h[a^]g), n. [OE. hagge, hegge, witch, hag, AS. h[ae]gtesse; akin to OHG. hagazussa, G. hexe, D. heks, Dan. hex, Sw. h[ a]xa. The first part of the word is prob. the same as E. haw, hedge, and the orig. meaning was perh., wood woman, wild …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • hagfish — noun Date: 1611 any of a family (Myxinidae) of marine cyclostomes that are related to the lampreys and in general resemble eels but have a round mouth surrounded by barbels and that feed upon other fishes and invertebrates by boring into their… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • hagfish — noun any of several primitive eellike creatures, of the family Myxindae, having a sucking mouth with rasping teeth; considered edible in Japan, their skin is used to make a form of leather …   Wiktionary

  • hagfish — n. jawless marine fish that looks like an eel …   English contemporary dictionary

  • hagfish — noun (plural same or hagfishes) a primitive jawless marine fish with a slimy eel like body, a slit like mouth, and a rasping tongue used for feeding on dead or dying fish. [Myxine and other genera, family Myxinidae.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • hagfish — hag•fish [[t]ˈhægˌfɪʃ[/t]] n. pl. (esp. collectively) fish, (esp. for kinds or species) fish•es. ich any eel shaped jawless fish of the order Myxiniformes, having a round, sucking mouth and rasping tongue for boring into the flesh of other fishes …   From formal English to slang


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