New hagfish species discovered

Epatretus burgeri

From Oceanus magazine:

Would a Hagfish By Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

A new species, Epatretus strickrotti, is named for the Alvin pilot who captured it

It’s not hard to figure out how hagfish got their name, since they aren’t exactly warm and fuzzy.

Slithery, skinny, coated in gooey slime, and often found wriggling and eating in the guts of dead whales, most people probably don’t want to be associated with them.

When Alvin pilot Bruce Strickrott captured a specimen of the worm-like fish during a dive in the cold, inky Pacific depths in March 2005, he recalled thinking it was “cool … but in a hideous sort of way.”

About a year later, he learned scientists wanted to name it for him.

It turns out that the fish he spotted swimming at a depth of 7, 218 feet (2,200 meters) during an oceanographic expedition south of Easter Island was among the first hagfish captured from a hydrothermal vent site.

Morphological studies and genetic analyses confirmed what researchers had then suspected: The hagfish was a new species, and one of the deepest-dwelling of its kind.

Suddenly, Strickrott felt not repulsed but nearly paternal about the 18-inch (45-centimeter) fish he withdrew from the depths.

“It’s a feather in my cap,” Strickrott said of the announcement of his namesake hagfish, Eptatretus strickrotti.

“It’s recognition from researchers for my contributions to the advancement of science.”

An article announcing the new species, by Peter Møller of the Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen and W. Joe Jones of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), was published in the February 2007 issue of the science journal Biological Bulletin.

Hagfishes and evolution: here.

Unique among the 50,000 vertebrate species alive today, the Pacific hagfish absorbs nutrients through its skin, bypassing the mouth: here.

7 thoughts on “New hagfish species discovered

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