Hagfish Slime May Be a Clothing Material, Scientists Say

May 2, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. primitive 
[PRIM-i-tiv] (adj.) – first of its kind or coming from early times
ExamplePrimitive men during the prehistoric times used stones to make fire.
2. scavenge [SKAV-inj] (v.) – to look for food that is thrown away
Example: The poor, hungry cat scavenged the garbage bin for some food.

3. slime [slahym] (n.) – a sticky and slippery material often secreted by animals
Example: Snails leave a trail of shiny slime wherever it goes.

4. predator [PRED-uh-ter, -tawr] (n.) – an animal that feeds on or kills other animals
Example: Sharks, lions, and tigers are some of nature’s wildest predators.

5. captivity [kap-TIV-i-tee] (n.) – the state of being trapped or kept in an enclosed area
Example: The lion refused to eat while in captivity.

Read the text below.

Research shows that the clothing of the future may come from a primitive creature that lives at the bottom of the sea.

This creature is called a hagfish, an eel-like marine animal that has no jaws or spine. This fish scavenges the ocean floor to feed on dead sea creatures, especially whales.. Experts believe that hagfishes lived as early as 330 million years ago.

The hagfish protects itself from predators by producing slime from its body. This slime covers the mouth and gills of its predators forcing them to back off or be unable to breathe.

Scientists believe the slime that a hagfish produces can be turned into clothing like tights, breathable athletic wear or bullet proof vests.

A hagfish has about a hundred glands along the side of its body that produce milky and sticky slime. This slime is composed of strong fiber that expands when mixed with seawater and becomes silky when stretched and dried.

Hagfish slime can be a good alternative to man-made fibers like nylon or spandex, which come from a non-renewable source. However, scientists still need to figure out how to produce hagfish slime in large quantities.

Today, no one has been able to breed hagfish in captivity, making the formation of hagfish farms highly unlikely. But, scientists are trying to artificially replicate the proteins found in hagfish slime with a method similar to what was used to imitate spider silk before.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A

·         Would you buy clothes made of hagfish slime? Why or why not?
·         What do you think are the advantages of using hagfish slime in clothing production? Please explain your answer.

Discussion B

·         Which do you think is better: clothes made of natural materials or clothes from artificial materials? Please explain your answer.
·         In your opinion, why do scientists want to replace artificial and non-renewable clothing materials?


May 2, 2013