The Pacific hagfish is also known as the slime eel, even though it is not, in fact, an eel. These ancient and mysterious creatures were recently spilled across a highway in Oregon in a multi-car crash, creating a traffic hazard and multiple slime-coated vehicles. What should you do in such a situation, and where was someone going with a truck full of slime-emitting sea creatures?
That truck wass unable to stop and turned over on Highway 101 in Oregon, and four other vehicles crashed into the containers of fish or each other, KPTV reports.
Here’s the thing with mucin, the material that hagfish produce when they’re stressed, scared, or just want to keep other animals away from their snacks. A most excellent FAQ about hagfish-on-automobile incidents at Southern Fried Science explains that there’s a lot of it: When the creatures are kept in captivity, they can suffocate themselves with it. One fish can create enough slime to choke sharks and other predators to keep from being eaten. Yes, there’s a video.
Scientists are studying this slime, which is fantastically strong, to mimic its properties and create new fabrics and even bulletproof vests.
That’s probably bad news if you’re the driver whose car was coated in the stuff, and the experts over at Southern Fried Science recommend just throwing out whatever clothes you were wearing that have slime on them. It’ll be easier.
Get the Bulldozer
You might have as much of an aversion to slime as I do, but the hagfish had been caught off the Oregon coast and were on their way to plates in South Korea, where people consider them a delicacy.
Most Americans aren’t really fans, though.
“They were writhing and slimy, and it was unbelievable, just unbelievable,” one witness told KPTV. “It was disgusting. I will definitely never, ever eat eel.” Or hagfish.
The Oregon State Police said that no one was injured in the crash, but the hagfish have not spent hundreds of millions of years evolving to survive on a highway, and they perished. The practical concerns of getting rid of thousands of pounds of the creatures and their slime meant getting out some special equipment: Bulldozers and hoses.
We imagine that the cleanup would be similar after any public appearances by Slimer from the Ghostbusters franchise.