9 facts about the world’s ugliest animal Blobfish

A blobfish is a pink-colored jelly-like fish that lives in deep waters. It is a species that looks bizarre when taken out of water. Blobfish’s weird appearance has made them a popular internet meme and market stuff toys. They have big heads, large jaws, tails that come to a point, and fins that look feathery.

Scientific name: Psychrolutes marcidus

Colour: Pinkish-grey coloured

Size: 1-2 feet in length

Weight: up to 9.5kg

Diet: (Omnivores)Anemone, crabs, mollusks, lobsters, and sea urchins

Lifespan: 100 years or above

Class: Ray-finned fishes

Family: Psychrolutidae

Blobfish habitat

There are nine types of blobfish, and they all live deep in the ocean. It resides in the deep waters along the coastlines of mainland Australia and Tasmania. Blobfish have also been found in the deep waters surrounding New Zealand.

Blobfish look quite different underwater. Instead of scales, they have loose, floppy skin. They don’t have strong bones or thick muscles like normal fishes instead they use the pressure from the water to keep their shape. That’s why blobfish become squishy when brought up to the surface.

Blobfish underwater

Blobfish are small fish that live in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, deep down in the water between 100 meters and 2800 meters. They’re called “fathead sculpin” because they have a big, round head and loose, floppy skin. These fish are pinkish-grey and look a bit like a tadpole, with a body that narrows down towards the tail. They are usually less than 30cm long and weigh less than 2kg.

1) It hold the title of world’s ugliest animal for 10 years

Blobfish have a large pink bulbous head, large jaws, and a sagging nose giving an expression of a sad-looking figure. That’s why they have been crowned as the world’s ugliest creature by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society in 2013. This title has not been taken by any other animal since then. In a groundbreaking global conservation competition, the visually unconventional fish claimed victory at the British Science Festival. The initiative aimed to shed light on the preservation of less conventionally attractive endangered species within Mother Nature’s diverse ecosystem.

Biologist Simon Watt emphasized the urgency of the cause by stating, “Two hundred species face extinction every day,” during the unveiling of the blobfish as the champion. Found in the deep waters of Australia, this species rarely engages in movement, preferring to float near the sea floor. Watt pointed out the blobfish’s critical situation, stating, “They are facing severe problems,” with their existence threatened by trawling, The competition aimed to draw attention to the vital importance of protecting such species should not be overlooked.

2) Blobfish are believed to live long lives – upwards of 100 years

Deepwater fishes usually live longer than surface-dwelling fishes. Still surviving in the deep sea is not a joke at all due to low light and less food. The blobfish has a lifespan that typically reaches 100 years, and under favourable conditions, it can even exceed 130 years. This becomes possible due to the slow growth rate and lack of predators in their environment.

They are found in deep-sea environments ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 meters). Here resources are limited hence metabolic rates of deep sea are generally lower. The absence of significant threats allows blobfish to reach maturity. Thus, they live out their lives without facing constant predation pressure. It possess a jelly-like skin which helps them adapt to the high pressures of the deep-sea environment.

3)  The World’s Ugliest Fish Is Also the Most Tasty

One day Alex Stollznow an employee at Sydney Fish Markets in Australia decided to taste Blobfish. So, he experimented with the culinary potential of a blobfish that was recently captured by local fishermen. He claimed to be the sole individual daring enough to try this endeavour and shared his experience with the Daily Mail. Typically, the fish markets only handle blobfish if caught accidentally. Mostly they are then donated to museums averaging around six fish per year. Motivated by the recent capture, Stollznow decided to conduct a taste test.

Opting to cook the blobfish, he sliced a fillet and utilized a blowtorch in the preparation process. Stollznow described the flavour as rich and sweet, akin to the taste of butter-poached lobster tail. Surprisingly he claimed the world’s ugliest fish to be very tasty. The flesh exhibited exceptional qualities but whether he incorporated any seasoning remains uncertain. This leaves the question of whether the unique flavour was a result of the blobfish’s intrinsic taste or something else. He humorously said “Almost everything that swims tastes good,” concluding that he would undoubtedly try it again.

4)  Blobfish don’t have bones or skeleton

They are made up of a jelly-like substance that makes them look like normal fish at depth. This is because of the intense pressure in the deep sea. When brought to the surface, these fish transforms into a limp and floppy mass. In the 1970s, David Stein, a biologist specializing in deep-sea fish, had the opportunity to dissect 19 blobfish. He explains about the fish anatomy that they look blobby because they are full of water. Beneath their skin, they possess a substantial layer of gelatinous flesh that hovers outside their muscles.

Blobfish don’t have bones but they do have a soft structure. This soft structure is crucial for their survival in the intense pressures of deep-sea environments. Some describe this soft component as “soft bones,” but it’s essential to note that blobfish lack true bones. The absence of bones is a strategic adaptation to prevent them from being crushed by the immense water pressure. It’s noteworthy that many deep-sea creatures exhibit similar soft structures for the same reason. The colossal squid serves as another similar organism thriving despite the absence of bones.

5)  They can handle 120 times more pressure than humans

Within the family Psychrolutidae, multiple species of blobfish exist, all of which are inhabitants of the deep sea. Most of them are residing at depths ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 feet below sea level. Blobfish underwater is a champion of handling water pressure which is about 120 times greater than at the surface. Blobfish have evolved many unique adaptations to survive this immense pressure.

Their skeletal and muscular structures are minimal. This allows the intense pressure of the deep sea to serve as their primary source of body support. Upon being brought to the surface, this fish undergoes decompression, resulting in the ugly gelatinous appearance that has become widely famous. However, in their natural habitat, these deep-sea dwellers resemble like any other bony fish. Perhaps, instead of labelling them simply as blobfish, a more accurate moniker could be “blob-above-water-fish.”

6) Blobfish can swim without swim bladders

A blobfish swimming near the seabed. Photo credit: Sea Serpent

Normal fishes have swim bladder that contains gases, typically oxygen or nitrogen. By regulating the amount of gas in the swim bladder, a fish can control its buoyancy. When a fish wants to come to the surface it adds gas to the bladder. Conversely, when it wants to descend, it releases gas, becoming denser and sinking.

When you lift a blobfish by the tail its muscles tend to shift towards the head. Alan Jamieson while analyzing blobfish found this water-filled Jell-O-like layer which allows the fish to stay buoyant. This is crucial because blobfishes don’t have a swim bladder. Once the fish succumbs, the gel loses its tension as it is no longer submerged in water causing it to lose its buoyancy.

7) Blobfish is a lazy hunter

In the deep sea, light penetration is limited hence primary productivity is low. The availability of food is indeed scarce compared to surface waters. Creatures in the depths of the ocean exhibit slower metabolic rates when compared to their counterparts in shallower waters. This allows them to survive on lower energy inputs and endure periods of food scarcity. They spend most of their lives on the seafloor thus they have less food to hunt down.

This fish specialized in a perfect hunting strategy for the rocky barrens of the deep sea. They just sit there and wait for dinner to come by which helps them to conserve energy. Another adaptation blobfish have is that they have a lot of white muscles and fewer red muscles. This helps them to swim in short bursts and lunge at prey. Hence, they just relax like a lazy hunter and hunt crabs, mollusks, and sea urchins.

8) They need warmer surfaces to lay eggs

One remarkable aspect of blobfish behaviour is their reproduction. They lay large masses of eggs on deep-sea plateaus in warmer water areas, potentially aiding faster egg development. These creatures seem to prefer rocky surfaces where the eggs can attach. The vulnerability during this period may be the only time they face potential predators.

The female fish lays lots of small pink eggs on the ocean floor, but only 1% of them grow up to be adults. Blobfish display very attentive parenting by strictly guarding their egg clutches. They may lay a significant number of eggs potentially about 100,000 in a single nest. Baby blobfish resemble small, fluffy tadpoles with big heads, large jaws, and thin tails.

9) Blobfish judgment of edible food is horrible

Image by: James Joel, License by CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED

Deep-sea fish live a long time and grow slowly, which helps them survive when there’s not much food around. Some of them go up to shallower waters at night to eat creatures that come up to the surface for food. This helps them find more food. Also, some deep-sea fish have big mouths and stretchy stomachs, so they can eat a lot when food is available and store it for later when there’s not much to eat. These are ways they’ve adapted to manage in an environment with limited food.

But you would be surprised what researchers have found in their stomachs. Moving to the tummy, the storyteller talks about how blobfish eat anything. Stein found lots of different things while dissecting this fish like sea pens, brittle stars, hermit crabs, and anemones. But also found some really interesting objects like plastic bags, undigestible octopus beaks, and many rocks. This shows blobfish might not be very smart and have a horrible judgment of edible food.

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