Magazine article Oceanus

A Hagfish by Any Other Name Would Not Smell as Sweet

Magazine article Oceanus

A Hagfish by Any Other Name Would Not Smell as Sweet

Article excerpt

It's not hard to figure out how hagfish got their name, as they aren't exactly warm and fuzzy. Skinny, coated in gooey slime, and often found wriggling and eating in the guts of dead whales, they're not the sort of critter most people want to be associated with. 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 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Suddenly, Strickrott felt not repulsed but nearly paternal about the 18-inch-long fish he had withdrawn from the depths.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 Moller of the Zoological Museum of the University of Copenhagen and W. Joe Jones of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, was published in the February 2007 issue of the journal Biological Bulletin. …

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