Hagfish (Myxine glutinosa)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The common hagfish Myxine glutinosa is a long, slender, eel-like fish. It is easy recognised by its fin-like fold of skin running continously right around the tail and forward on the lower surface of the body. The hagfish has a single gill pore on either side, just forward of the beginning of the ventral finfold. It has a jawless, lipless mouth that is star-shaped when closed. At the tip of the snout it has a single nasal aperture. There are barbels around the mouth and nasal regions. Myxine glutinosa can vary in colour possibly according to seabed type but is often grayish brown or reddish gray.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded all around Britain and expected off the coasts of Ireland.

Global distribution



The hagfish is a demersal species that can usually be found on muddy bottoms hiding in the mud, potentially down to depths of over 1000 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Smooth, slender, eel-like species up to 80 cm in length.
  • Single finfold running around the posterior part of the body.
  • Single gill pore.
  • Lipless star-shaped mouth.
  • Two barbels either side of the mouth and four around the nasal region.

Additional information

Myxine glutinosa is a scavenger feeding mainly on dead fish. It is completely blind and finds its food by its greatly specialized olfactory sense. It has a peculiar habit of pouring out slime, from mucus sacs near the abdomen, in disproportionate quantities to its size (Jørgensen et al., 1998).

Listed by

- none -


  1. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  2. Jørgensen, J.M., Lomholt, J.P., Weber, R.E. & Malte, H. (eds.), 1998. The Biology of Hagfishes. London, Chapman & Hall.

  3. Shelton, R.G.J., 1978. On the feeding of the hagfish Myxine glutinosa in the North Sea. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 58, 81-86


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-21


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Myxine glutinosa Hagfish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 21-05-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/78

Last Updated: 22/05/2008