A highway in Oregon had to endure a bit of a ‘sticky’ situation on Thursday afternoon.
A truck traveling along Highway 101 in Depoe Bay, was transporting about 13 containers of hagfish weighing 7,500 pounds to be exported to South Korea, according to the New York Times reported. Hagfish, commonly known as slime eels for their eel like resemblance have the ability to emit slime– massive amounts of it, especially when it feels threaten or stressed. So when the truck driver was unable to stop the truck as it approached roadway construction, the containers loosened and flew all over the highway, and not only did the hagfish spill all over the road so did a ton of slime– enough to shut down the highway for several hours.
Like a domino effect, the spilled containers abruptly fell onto the road causing about four other vehicles to be pushed into each other and also become covered in slime. Fortunately, the drivers caught in the accident only sustained minor injuries Oregon State Police reported.
Pictures and videos posted to Twitter by Depoe Bay First District and the Oregon State Police, show the extent to which slime was excreted all over the highway that afternoon. Because hagfish slime is a thick sticky mucus, those tasked with cleaning up the highway after the ordeal had quite some work set out for them. Videos show workers using bulldozers and fire hoses to clean up slime and wriggly hagfish– many which ended up dead.
“People always find ways to be grossed out by strange marine creatures, but when you think about it, hagfish are magnificent,” Deep-sea Ecologist and Population Geneticist, Andrew David Thaler wrote in a recent article titled, “Your car has just been crushed by hagfish: Frequently Asked Questions” on his website Southern Fried Science.
Hagfish are pre historic creatures believed to have been around for millions of years without hardly evolving. The jawless fish is a deep sea scavenger known to tie itself into knots as it rips through carcasses that fall to the bottom of the ocean.
Hagfish are able to produce copious amounts of slime. “A single hagfish can fill a 5-gallon bucket with slime, seemingly instantly,” Thaler wrote. It’s slime, which is more like a semi-solid gel, is used as a form of protection from bigger fish such as sharks, or when it eats in order to deter other fish from eating its meal.
“They secrete a viscous slime that’s unlike anything else in this world,” Thaler continued. “We know almost nothing about them, but what we do know is nothing short of incredible. They are weird and they are wonderful.” And while scientists learn more about this interesting creature, they are also looking into using it to create lycra, a type of elastic fabric used especially for close-fitting sports clothing.
Besides being considered as a clothing source, hagfish is a delicacy in the South Korean market, and are sold in countries including China, Japan, Europe and the U.S. Thaler also noted that hagfish skin is also used to make items such as wallets and belts as well.
This creature may live at the bottom of the ocean and emit disgusting mucus, but turns out Hagfish are pretty important–there’s an entire day dedicated to them. Mark your calendars for October 3–it’s going to be Hagfish Day.