Hagfish (Eptatretus cirrhatus) have very primitive features, and probably have changed little in 200 million years. They live in the dark on muddy sea floors, and as they have a very slow metabolism, one meal can last them several months. Their rudimentary skeleton is made of cartilage. They have six sensitive tentacles around their mouth, and lack a jaw but have rasps on their tongue with which they pull in food. They move slowly and mostly feed on dead or dying fish, as well as live worms and crabs. Their main defence mechanism is exuding huge quantities of slimy mucus. This New Zealand hagfish species is one of the largest in the world.
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Photograph by Peter Batson
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