Te Papa research online on National Geographic website

Te Papa research online on National Geographic website

Recently, I published with my colleagues from Te Papa Fish Team and Massey University some interesting findings about a fantastic group of species: hagfishes. Those primitive deep-sea fishes repulse any predator attack using their slime. I present examples of how hagfish stop the attack from shark several times their sizes. And it even looked easy… The paper also documents a first ever observed predating behaviour of hagfishes in the wild. We thought they were only eating dead or dying animals, but now we know that they can also hunt for preys. Combining this with the fact that hagfish have existed on Earth, almost unchanged, for 300 millions years and are the ancestors of all vertebrates, they are quite impressive animals! You can download the open-access paper here.

Those videos got National Geographic attention and were published on their website where you can find other examples of amazing animal behaviours. It is well worth having a look at. Follow this link to the National Geographic video.

Dalatias licha attacking hagfish
The seal shark, Dalatias licha, attacking the common hagfish, Eptatretus cirrhatus

In the meantime, our team is getting ready for another expedition. In about ten days, we are heading down South for almost one month of intensive sampling. This time, we will study fish biology and behaviours off the Otago Peninsula and around the Auckland Islands which are part of the Sub Antarctic islands. This is an amazingly wild place to work on! I will post in the coming days more information about this exciting survey.

Speak to you soon,



  1. The description on the youtube video (which is amazing – wow SO excellent!) is a bit misleading. We all think hagfish are bad looking but I have never seen their horrifyinig protruding teeth? I had to google them and I must say that now that I have seen them, they look pretty scary.

    I am so obsessed about the “big blue” – I made a fatal error when I did not study Marine Biology when I went to University. I thought I Was quite up on types of sharks, but your video has taught me that I am very lacking in this skill! Is it possible to have the different species of shark who became visible, identified? It is very interesting that Edith Widder’s work shows predation of predators rather than a direct scavenging of the “bait” & that is exactly what the video shows. And the hagfish operating as a hunter of live prey must have been an utterly mindblowing revelation!! Congratulations on a superb project. My last question is just around the depths of the videos, please?

    1. I watched again & I see that the two dogsharks have been identified, but the first shark with the pretty white eyebrows seems not to have been identified? Thanks again!

    2. I found it – kitefin shark! Huzzah, and thank you! Superb work!

  2. Hi Vincent
    I’m a bit late catching up with this but it’s truly impressive, truly nasty, slimey video. I always knew hagfish were cool. Pamela

  3. Hi Vincent

    Does the shark die when it has been slimed? It looks like it is in some discomfort.


    1. Hi Lucy,

      ours videos actually could not show the fate of the sharks and other predators. They escaped the field of view. However, we suspect that the predators survive the sliming because they will probably be able to get rid of it after some time. But quite uncomfortable, isn’t it?


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