Clothing of the Future: Hagfish Slime

by on April 2nd, 2013

Apparently, in the quest for sustainable, environmentally friendly alternatives to petroleum-based threads like Lycra, nylon, and spandex, scientists are turning to decidedly disgusting creatures.

Meet the hagfish, a 300 million-year-old species (it predates dinosaurs) with a very icky adaptation: thick slime. And their nickname? Snot eels. No kidding. Also, they have four rows of teeth. Sounds like the perfect pet. 😛

These eel-like fellows troll the bottom of the ocean looking for dead whales to eat (gross), and if a predator decides on hagfish sushi for lunch, the hagfish secretes a slime thick enough to potentially suffocate the predator.

Scientists at the University of Guelph in Canada are studying the potential applications for hagfish slime, including developing flexible, strong, environmentally friendly threads. You won’t be seeing any hagfish farms (thank goodness), since scientists have yet to successfully breed hagfish in captivity. Instead, scientists are analyzing the proteins found in the slime, hoping to genetically engineer bacteria that produce the protein.

Nature. Super cool. Super gross.

Looking for a book about weird textiles? Check out Crafting with Cat Hair or Knit Your Own Dog. Looking for more information about weird sea creatures? Check out Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime : The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter or Sea Monsters: Prehistoric Monsters of the Deep.


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