Today we dive to the Antipodean ocean bed to get acquainted with a seldom seen marine creature: something so strange you’d think it was photoshopped or dreamed up by the cartoonist who devised the Sad Face.
The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) is a small fish of up to 30 cm (12 inches) in length, and lives on the sea bed off the coasts of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand at depths of 600-1200 metres (2000-3900 ft).
Unlike most fish, they don’t possess a swim bladder to maintain buoyancy.
Blobfish lurk in this domain not because of any self consciousness about their looks but because their jellylike bodies, less dense than water, have evolved so they can lie in wait just above the sea bed for anything remotely edible to drift by. Their favourite prey is sea urchins, small deep water crustaceans and molluscs.
As a pretty sedentary tribe they don’t need a banquet to sustain them: snacks are sufficient.
In their natural environment they look like this:
They are masters of camouflage:
The female lays thousands of eggs which she keeps a motherly eye on once laid, and she is sometimes seen actually sitting on them, unlike many fish species. They are often observed in “nursery” groups – practising “safety in numbers” or because they are more sociable than their dim submarine neighbourhood would suggest.
Blobfish truly symbolize the expression “a fish out of water.” As soon as they’re removed from their aquatic habitat their soft gelatinous bodies assume the shape of a pink blancmange with a remarkable likeness to a glum human face. They can’t survive very long under these conditions, just as we wouldn’t if suddenly teleported to their murky world at the ocean bottom.
Looking like the disturbed ghost of a sea captain with a large nose who went down with his ship, pipe and all:
Blobfish were voted the “World’s Ugliest Animal” in September 2013 (rather unfairly, since they look okay where they belong, on the sea floor) and adopted as the mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, which aims to raise awareness about some of Nature’s less visually appealing species. If their “ugly” status can help to conserve them, then it’s a good thing…
Because of their reclusive nature data about their numbers is hard to come by but they are considered endangered as they are often caught as bycatch in nets which trawl the seabed. They haven’t been adequately researched and thus their conservation status is currently recorded as “Not Evaluated.”
It would truly be a sad day if these “ugly” but remarkable creatures were ever to disappear from our enigmatic depths.
Here are a few more of the world’s more aesthetically challenged creatures: