Story: Marine animals without backbones



Hagfish are not true fish, as they do not have a backbone. They are found in the waters around New Zealand, especially in southern seas. Hagfish locate prey by using the sensitive tentacles at the front of their head to detect smell and movement. They are opportunist feeders and eat small animals like bristle-worms and crabs, as well as larger live and dead fish. Although they lack a jaw, their mouth is armed with a rasp-like tongue that can lacerate the flesh of their prey. They protect themselves from predators by exuding copious quantities of sticky slime.

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Photograph by Peter Batson

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How to cite this page:

Dennis Gordon and Maggy Wassilieff, 'Marine animals without backbones - Lancelets, lampreys and hagfish', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 5 December 2016)

Full story by Dennis Gordon and Maggy Wassilieff, published 12 Jun 2006