Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Factoids of the day

Hagfish slime: The clothing of the future?
For years, scientists have been looking for alternatives to synthetic fibres like nylon and lycra, or spandex, which are made from oil - a non-renewable resource.
Hagfish slime has the potential to provide a natural and renewable alternative.
But first, the experts need to work out how to increase the slime production. It's unlikely that we will ever see massive hagfish farms. Hagfish don't seem to respond well in these conditions.
apparently, unlike ordinary snot or slime, the Hagfish slime is reinforced by tiny fibers.
Hagfish slime is unlike other slimy secretions in that it is reinforced with very fine fibres. Our data show that these fibres lend tensile strength and toughness to the slime. Subsequent research will investigate the mechanical properties of the mucus component of the slime, as well as the properties of naturally-produced slime cocoons.

I seem to remember Mike Rowe collecting these wonderful creatures as one of his dirty jobs...apparently they eat them in Asia. Bogleech says the  Discovery channel store actually used to sell artificial hag slime for your kids to play with.

So why do they put out slime? NatGeo says that the New Zealand version puts out slime to gag the sharks trying to eat them. Video here.

Ifood has more on the hagfish:
The hagfish is irritated with a stick and forced to produce slime which is used as a substitute for egg in various Asian dishes. The slime is considered good substitute for egg white. It is believed that nearly 5 million pounds of hagfish is consumed by Koreans every year ( South Koreans consume this fish with a glass of soju – a typical starch or rice based vodka consumed in Korea. The fish is sometimes barbecued, boiled and fried prior to consumption. Some anecdotal evidences suggest that slime eels are also eaten raw in some parts of the country.
they add that the fish is often eaten stir fried with spices.

But the Museum of awful recipes blog has a recipe for hagfish slime scones.

So you will have noticed by now that the hagfish secret tons of slime, because I mentioned it in the previous paragraph. As I learned from my vast hagfish research (this one site, pretty much), the slime is a sugar and protein solution that coagulates when it's secreted into water, forming a slime that is similar in texture and chemical composition to egg whites. 

Hagfish are also useful as a source of leather: Their skin is often used to make "eelskin wallets"...
Hagfish skin is soft and strong, and is sold worldwide as 'Eel-skin'. It's become a popular ethical alternative to leather for shoes, handbags, belts and wallets. Even better, as it is eaten in Asia, it's a culinary by-product. Eel skin is suppler and stronger than normal leather, and the fact that no two skins are the same means that every item made is truly unique.

So most of your fashion accessories - mostly wallets, credit card holders and purses, but also including some oddities such as boxes and shoes - come from the Pacific Hagfish (the slime eel). Some species are now endangered due to the eel-skin trade.
and mark your calenders:

Hagfish day is celebrated on the third Wednesday of October..

and WhaleTimes has a collection of Hagfish Haiku for you poetry lovers:

Hagfish of the sea
Use slime to protect yourself
Hagfish of the deep
          By Jennifer, Mississip

HopeAlexanderHubpage also notes:
Some species of hagfish are also members of a unique group of animals which can change their gender if it is needed for procreation. If hagfish communities begin to die out, some of the males will actually become female. Other species are completely hermaphroditic, able to act as males or females. Having A Hagfish To Dinner Last but not least we come to the strange eating habits of the hag fish. Instead of chomping down on a tasty morsel of prey, the hagfish instead enters through the mouth, nose or anus and consumes it alive or dead from the inside out. (Much like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend.)

and no, hagfish are not lampreys: LINK

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