Sexuality and Embryogenesis of the Atlantic Hagfish, Myxine glutinosa

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Project Type: 

Students Involved:

Samantha Meservey UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Amy Agulay University of New Hampshire
Jennifer Wishinski UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Lyn MacNevin UNH - Department of Biological Sciences
Joanne Davis UNH - Department of Biological Sciences

Faculty Advisors:

Mickie Powell UNH - Department of Molecular, Cellular & Biomedical Sciences
Stacia Sower UNH - Department of Molecular, Cellular & Biomedical Sciences

The objectives of these experiments were to determine gonadal development under controlled laboratory conditions and to stimulate gonadal development through injection of lamprey GnRH III to potentially obtain fertilized eggs. Atlantic hagfish, Myxine glutinosa, were obtained from the Gulf of Maine.

For the first objective, a total of 30 hagfish were held for five months at 4 degrees Celsius in a recirculating saltwater tank. Maintenance of these hagfish required daily temperature checks and transfer of new seawater every two weeks from the coast. Hagfish were sampled once a month for five months from November through March for weight and length and to determine the stage of gonadal development through histological examination. In November, most of the hagfish were classified as undetermined, i.e., they had not undergone sexual differentiation. During the next few months, the majority of hagfish were female.

For the second objective, six hagfish were injected in February with 48 micrograms of microencapsulated lamprey GnRH III in an attempt to stimulate gametogenesis. Hagfish were sampled after one month for comparison to a control non-injected group (n=6). Subsequent histological analysis showed that lamprey GnRH-III appeared to stimulate reproductive development in female hagfish compared to controls.


Available from the National Sea Grant Library (use NHU number to search) or NH Sea Grant


  • Sexuality and embryogenesis of the Atlantic hagfish, "Myxine glutinosa": S.E.A.H. (2001). Joanne Davis, Samantha Meservey, Amy Agulay, Jennifer Wishinski and Lyn MacNevin. Advisors: Mickie Powell and Stacia Sower.