Unusually loose skin helps hagfish survive shark attacks | Science News

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Unusually loose skin helps hagfish survive shark attacks

Slip-sliding outer covering also aids in Houdini escapes

By
6:26pm, January 6, 2017
hagfish

SAVE OUR SAGGY SKINS Remarkably loose-fitting skin could help hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii shown) survive a shark bite.

View the video

NEW ORLEANS, La. – Skin that mostly hangs loose around hagfishes proves handy for living through a shark attack or wriggling through a crevice.

The skin on hagfishes’ long, sausage-style bodies is attached in a line down the center of their backs and in flexible connections where glands release slime, explained Douglas Fudge of Chapman University in Orange, Calif. This floating skin easily slip-slides in various directions. A shark tooth can puncture the skin but not stab into the muscle below. And a shark attack is just one of the crises when loose skin can help, Fudge reported January 5 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Hagfishes can fend off an attacking shark by quick-releasing a cloud of slime. Yet video of such events shows that a shark can land a bite before getting slimed. To figure out how hagfishes might survive such

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