Common name: Hagfishes

Hagfishes belong to an ancient lineage of marine cartilaginous eel-like “fishes” that lack true jaws and have degenerate eyes and many gill openings. They are pre-vertebrates. 

Some authors consider hagfishes to be the sister group to the jawless lampreys and all the jawed vertebrates (fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals). Others hypothesise that the jawless vertebrates (hagfishes and lampreys) are the sister group to all higher vertebrates based on molecular analyses.

Hagfishes have long been thought of as primitive deep-sea scavengers that rasp their way into carcasses and feed from the inside out. However, recent video footage taken off New Zealand shows hagfish preying on other fishes (Zintzen et al. 2011). Hagfishes are renowned for their amazing slime production, and video footage in the same article shows hagfishes avoiding predation by clogging up the mouths and gills of predators.

Living species belong to a single family, the Myxinidae, with seven genera and 76 described species in two subfamilies.

Author: Dianne J. Bray

Cite this page as:
Dianne J. Bray, Hagfishes, MYXINIFORMES in Fishes of Australia, accessed 23 Sep 2023, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/order/29

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