Eel like fish, no scales, no true fins and no jaw. Exude copious amounts of slime from 75 pores along the side of the body when distressed. Have degenerate eyes that can be found embedded into the head muscles when dissecting, also have rows of teeth that fall out periodically.
This species is known from shallow to deep waters, on soft bottom shelves and slopes at depths from 1-1,100 m. It can form locally abundant populations and is often associated with inshore reefs
The gonads of hagfishes are situated in the peritoneal cavity. The ovary is found in the anterior portion of the gonad, and the testis is found in the posterior part. The animal becomes female if the cranial (head) part of the gonad develops or male if the caudal (tail) part undergoes differentiation. If none develops, then the animal becomes sterile. If both anterior and posterior parts develop, then the animal becomes a functional hermaphrodite. However, hermaphroditism being characterised as functional needs to be validated by more reproduction studies.
Fishermen loath hagfish and consider them bad luck, the slime they produce sticks to crayfish pots etc. and catch rates are significantly decreased.
Studies show that the Hagfish is a significant part of the Bottlenose Dolphin's diet in Doubtful Sound. Early Maori also considered them a delicacy.
A Treasury of New Zealand Fishes: Graham
Mincarone, M.M. 2011. Eptatretus cirrhatus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2.