The hagfish is an eel-like creature that does two things really well: burrowing into live animals to eat them from the inside out, and excreting bucketfuls of suffocating slime when threatened. That slime is made up of gooey mucus and microscopic threads. The threads are there to clog the gills of any attacking predator, and it's these tiny fibers, each of which is narrower than a human blood cell, that has scientists interested in the animal. In 2012, researchers at the University of Guelph were able to create fibers from hagfish slime threads that had qualities similar to spider silk, another fiber from nature that is sought after for its incredible tensile strength. Another breakthrough came in 2014, when they created similar fibers not from the threads themselves, but from a protein related to those found in the threads. That could make for a more sustainable material, since scientists wouldn't have to harvest slime from the hagfish themselves. The hope is that one day, these fibers could play a role in eco-friendly performance materials that would replace less sustainable fabrics like Kevlar, which is made from petroleum.
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Key Facts In This Video
Hagfish are eel like creatures that live on the ocean floor. 00:15
When attacked, the hagfish can release about a liter of slime which clogs the mouths and gills of their assailants. 00:25
Scientists hope to turn the super strong fibers within the hagfish slime into high-performance clothing material. 00:41