Rock pooling is usually a serene pastime, but you can always rely on the wondrous hagfish to shake things up a bit. 

This Lovecraftian-looking oddball (class Myxini) was found by a beachgoer in Tirúa, Chile, and while it certainly looks to be in distress, there's a good chance it made it out of this pickle alive!

Not many marine animals could withstand a situation like this, but these primitive fish have 300 million years on the planet to thank for their impressive arsenal of survival superpowers.

For starters, hagfish can "breathe" through their skin, which contains a dense network of oxygen-absorbing capillaries. It's thought the adaptation helps the scavengers survive in mud and other sediment on the seafloor, but as you can see here, it's equally handy when you find yourself a "fish out of water". 

Though some commenters online suspected foul play, it's likely that this animal simply floundered on the rocks during a change of tide. Whether or not the hagfish lived to swim another day largely depends on how long the water took to rise again. 

Special skin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hagfish abilities. They're also known as "slime eels" (though they're not part of the eel family) – and that nickname is a nod to the most impressive hagfish quirk of all: the goo glands.

These animals don't "spew out" slime (as some articles have suggested); instead, they secrete a compound from pores along the body that transforms sea water into a thick, gelatinous sludge. The "crude slime" is so effective, in fact, that just a drop is enough to do this:

You can also see the interaction between crude slime and water in this clip from the Vancouver Aquarium:

That transformational mechanism explains why our Chile fish isn't coated in the slippery stuff. In the deep ocean, however (where there is plenty of material to work with), hagfish produce enough slime to confuse would-be predators and clog their gills. The getaway tactic is often compared to how squid and octopuses use their ink.


Top header image: Zintzen et al./Nature