Last July, a highway in Oregon turned into a scene straight out of a horror movie. A truck carrying 3,400 kilograms (7,500 pounds) of eel-like hagfish tipped over. The squirming creatures had been destined for Asia, where they are enjoyed as a culinary delicacy. Instead, they caused a terrible mess.
A single hagfish can create 19 liters (5 gallons) of slime almost instantaneously as a defense against predators. If a shark tries to chomp down on a hagfish, for example, the attacker gets a mouthful of slime that clogs its mouth and gills—feathery organs fish use to breathe. The goo chokes the shark, prompting it to spit out the hagfish. The hagfish’s slimy secretions and its incredibly flexible body, which lacks a backbone, allow it to quickly wriggle to safety.