It's time to celebrate the hideous hagfish

Finally, a made-up holiday I can total get behind! It's NATIONAL HAGFISH DAY! According to the National Today website:

Hagfish Day is observed on the third Wednesday in October every year, falling on October 19 this year. It is a day to celebrate the existence and importance of the hagfish — the squiggly, slimy fish species. Although it is often considered the ugliest fish species, it plays a vital role in the overall ecosystem and equilibrium within marine life.

The hagfish is, by all accounts, hideous. National Today describes it like this, "With no jaw, no bones, and no scales, this fish species is not the easiest on the eyes." Seacoast Online recently published an informative and hilarious article about the hagfish. Author Ellen Goethel describes them as "one of the most disgusting-looking fish" she has encountered in her career in fisheries. She also says they have been "described as a sack of blood. Its skin is only connected to its internal organs in a very few places." She goes on:

Hagfish are scaleless, jawless, boneless fish that have a skeleton of cartilage and look somewhat like an eel. Growing up to 35 inches and covered with slime, they have a head with thick barbels, a skull of cartilage and no backbone or jaw. They don't look like a fish at all. These fish have over 100 slime glands that secrete slime through between 90 and 200 pores located down the length of their body. 

Goethel also describes the "truly horrific way that they feed":

During the night they emerge from their muddy habitat and attack a dead or dying fish and burrow into its body with their mouth. Their mouth is jawless surrounded by four pairs of barbels (whisker-like projections for sensing) and a plate with two sets of sharp teeth made of cartilage. This projection can grasp food and rip pieces off, pulling it into its gut. Once inside the body cavity of their prey, they proceed to digest all its internal organs leaving an empty sack of the fish's skin and bones. The skin of the hagfish can digest and absorb nutrients more efficiently than its gut!

As horrifying as these creatures are, they do helpful things for our ecosystem, as they are instrumental in digesting dead animal carcasses on the bottom of the ocean floor. Thank you, dear hagfish. Goethel also explains that the hagfish is considered a culinary delicacy in Korea, where "they also tan their hides and use them as leather for wallets." Thank you again, dear hagfish. Goethel also recounts this scene that seems right out of a horror film:

Imagine this; in 2017 there was a truck in Oregon full of slime eels headed to be shipped to Korea. The truck overturned on a highway and within minutes the entire road was covered in slime expanding to engulf an entire car. It boggles the mind. I wonder how they cleaned it up?  

If you want to learn more about the hagfish, go read the rest of Goethel's article here. And here's a 3-minute primer on the critter from the Smithsonian Channel, appropriately titled, "The Hagfish Is the Slimy Sea Creature of Your Nightmares."

But the hideous creature still does good in this world, so let's appreciate the hagfish, even if it's the stuff of nightmares. In the words of the National Today website, "Once you look past their exterior, hagfish have a lot to offer and deserve to be celebrated."