Scientists recently discovered a rare and vital hagfish fossil that has traces of preserved slime which dates back to a hundred million years ago.
Eyeless jawless slime eels — still around these days — are freakish, eel-like, carrion-eating fishes that lick the flesh off dead animals exploiting their peaky tongue-like structures. however their most well-known feature is a sticky slime that they expel for defense.
And now, scientists understand that hag slime is powerful enough to leave traces within the fossil record, finding exceptional proof in a very fossilised hag skeleton excavated in Lebanese Republic. This new discovery is additionally prompting researchers to redefine the hagfish’s relationship to other ancient fish and to all or any animals with backbones.
Hagfish fossils are scarce, and this specimen — an “unequivocal fossil hagfish” — is exceptionally elaborate with many soft tissue preserved, scientists reported during a study published online on Jan 21 2019, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The fossil dates to the late Cretaceous period (145.5 million to sixty five million years ago), and measures twelve inches (31 centimeters) long. Researchers dubbed it Tethymyxine tapirostrum: Tethymyxine comes from “Tethys” (referencing the Tethys Sea) and also the Latinized Greek word “myxnios,” which implies “slimy fish.” Tapirostrom interprets as “snout of a tapir,” and refers to the fish’s elongated nose, the study authors wrote.
Hagfish have existed around for about five hundred million years, nevertheless there’s next to no trace of them as fossils, primarily as a result of their long, curved bodies lack arduous skeletons, aforementioned lead study author Tetsuto Miyashita, a postdoctoral fellow with the Department of organismal Biology and Anatomy at the University of Chicago.
Basically, it’s sort of a swimming sausage,” Miyashita told Live Science. “It’s a bag of skin with lots of muscles in it. they do not have any bones or arduous teeth within them, thus it’s very tough for them to get preserved into the fossil record.”
When vulnerable, modern hag manufacture a sort of mucous secretion from special slime glands distributed on their bodies. As scleroprotein fibers — the things that creates up our fingernails and hair — within the mucous secretion encounter water, they tangle and expand the slime ball to at least 10,000 times its original size in barely some tenths of a second, researchers detailed in another study, published on January 16, within the journal Royal Society Interface.
Hagfish slime may be a sticky mess that deters predators by impeding their gills, and this slippery defense is even effective ashore, as variety of unlucky motorists learned in 2017. Copious, icky hag slime briefly close up a part of a road in Oregon, when a truck upturned and drop its payload of hag — 7,500 pounds (3,400 kilograms) — onto the road.
And now, scientists grasp that this slippy defense was in situ one hundred million years agone, maybe wont to deter Cretaceous marine carnivores like ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs and ancient sharks, Miyashita aforesaid.
Hagfish are so odd that for a long time they have been seen as as “the odd ones out” on the family tree, the only occupants of a lonely branch, Miyashita aforesaid. As a result of their fossils are therefore scarce, it’s unclear however when the hagfish diverged from the common relative they shared with other fishes (and afterward, all vertebrates).
But the new fossil shows that hagfish a hundred million years in the past were remarkably the same as hag these days, suggesting that their specialised body parts and features accumulated bit by bit over time. If so, instead of being a more primitive “cousin” to alternative fish, hagfish ought to be classified along with long-bodied lampreys, the study authors report. In elucidating these relationships, scientists develop a rather elaborate image of how creatures with backbones evolved, Miyashita aforementioned.
Where we have a tendency to place hagfish makes a distinction to how we think concerning our own ancestors, over five hundred million years ago,” he added.Tags: Fossils, Hagfish, Tethymyxine tapirostrum
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