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Have you ever even heard of a slime eel before? These hagfish fish are apparently a delicacy in many Asian countries. How did thousands of eels end up on a road in Oregon, incapacitating cars, trucks, and SUVs? This accident is one for the books.

The slime eels were in a truck destined for another country before the accident

Truck carrying 'slime eels' got in an accident on an Oregon highway
One of the cars incapacitated by the slime eels | Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Police

According to a National Geographic article about the incident, “thousands of mucus-spewing hagfish” ended up all over a highway in Oregon. A large truck carrying the hagfish was involved in an accident and left the road covered in slime. This isn’t just any old slime, though. Experts say the hagfish slime is exceptionally potent and required a small bulldozer. Police called the Oregon Department of Transportation to the scene to help.

National Geographic says that the slime from a hagfish isn’t like a traditional slime (whatever that means) and is “more like a gel made of filaments.” Douglas Fudge, a biomaterials researcher at Chapman University in California, says that the “slime is a fiendishly effective means of defending themselves against predatory attacks by fishes.” In other words, the slime eels don’t usually come out to disrupt traffic on local roads.

This slime usually lets the eels get away after clogging the predator’s gills. In the case of cars, trucks, and SUVs, the slime incapacitated the vehicles by sticking to the road and tires.

The slime eels released the goo after the accident due to stress

Slime eels multi-car accident
Vehicles caught in the slime eel goo | Photo courtesy of the Oregon State Police

When the stressed slime eels were accidentally released, no car, truck, or SUV was safe. The truck carrying the sea creatures was in an accident that likely stressed the eels. Fudge says these Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii) release slime when stressed out. What eel wouldn’t be stressed out about an accident?

“It’s also likely that the truck legally carrying the hagfish in aquarium tanks were full of slime before the accident even happened, as it’s difficult to move these fish without triggering the slime response.”

National Geographic

“Hagfish are slime-spewing monsters! That’s part of what makes them so wonderful,” deep-sea ecologist Andrew Thaler says. Thaler went on to say that the slime isn’t so much a slime but more of a semi-solid gel. He compared it to Spider-Man’s web.

The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Transportation responded to the scene

Traffic crews were on the scene with large hoses and equipment to help clear the area. Unfortunately, many of the cars, trucks, and SUVs involved in the accident were goners. There wasn’t much left between the structural damage to the vehicles and the thick layer of slime. In fact, the Oregon Department of Transportation had to break out a bulldozer to remove some of the goo.

About 10 cars were involved, including the original slime eel truck. These fish aren’t used to being on a scenic road in the Pacific Northwest, as you can imagine. It doesn’t appear anyone was hurt in the accident, save for the eels. While this scene wasn’t in the Final Destination movie, it is still pretty bizarre.

This article was updated on 10/7/2022.


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