Blobfish The World's Ugliest Animal

blobfish swimming in ocean

Photo: Blobfish swimming in the ocean

The blobfish underwater looks like a 30cm long, pink/grey tadpole. But take it out of water, and its jelly-like body collapses, and it looks like a slime blob, earning it the title of the world’s ugliest animal. So, a blobfish in water, its natural habitat, looks like an average sort of fish. But, in the open air, its body loses shape.

The blobfish is also referred to as a blob fish (two words). Its scientific name is Psychrolutes marcidus.


Blobfish Description What Does a Blobfish Look Like?

blobfish out of water

Photo: blobfish

The blobfish is a tadpole-shaped deep ocean fish about 30 cm long, pink/grey in colour, and weighing 2kgs. It has a globulous head with large black eyes, a blunt fat-filled snout that looks like a bulbous nose, and a large mouth with villiform teeth (teeth resembling bristles of a brush). Its head makes up 40% of its total body mass. The blobfish’s body tapers quickly from its head to a tiny flat tail and is covered in smooth, loose skin. The blob fish has no scales.

The most notable adaptation of the blobfish is the composition of its body, which is made up almost entirely of a gelatinous substance with a density slightly less than water. Because of this lighter density, there is natural buoyancy in the fish, permitting it to float just above the seafloor. It can also change the density of the gelatinous mass in its body to vary the depth at which it swims. This enables it to adapt to different depths of water. This lighter-than-water body allows the blobfish to float effortlessly in its habitat, expending very little energy to move around. Another sea creature that has a gelatinous body is surprise - surprise, the jellyfish.

• Why is the Blobfish a Slime Blob?

The blobfish has very soft cartilaginous bones which easily compress to the extreme pressure of the deep sea without breaking. It also has no teeth.

The blobfish has just enough muscle attached to its soft cartilaginous skeleton to perform the essential function of living. These include breathing with its gills, opening its mouth, and moving its fins slowly to navigate just above the ocean floor. Its low muscle mass and usage have the added benefit that it uses very little energy in movement.

•The Sad Story of Mr. Blobby - Winner of the Ugliest Animal Award


Blobfish Underwater Blobfish in Water

Photo: Blobfish swimming in its underwater habitat

The blobfish underwater looks like a typical bottom-dwelling fish. However, take it out of water, and it looks like a blob of jelly. This is because the high water pressure in its deep-sea habitat keeps its body in the correct shape. But out of water, its body collapses and loses shape because of the loss of pressure around its body. (Air pressure is a lot lower than water pressure).

Photo: Illustration of what makes a blobfish a blob

Here is a real-life example of how this works. We all know of the slimy stuff kids play with called "Slime". Now when the slime is in its container, the sides of the container keep it in shape. In this case, the shape of the container is putting pressure on the slime, forcing it into a shape. However, when you take the slime out of its container, it no longer has something forcing it to have a shape. So it becomes blobby and has no particular shape. The same principle applies to the blobfish. It is designed to work under pressure. The water acts like a container.


Blobfish Habitat Where do Blobfish Live?

Photo: Illustration of depth at which blobfish live

The blobfish lives in the oceans off the coast of Australia, at depths of 1,000 meters near the seafloor.

The depth at which the blobfish swims is more than 2.5 times deeper than the most powerful submarine can go. A submarine, if it were to go this deep, would be crumpled like a tin can by the water pressure, which is over 100 times greater than on land.

Only specially designed undersea rovers can penetrate down to these depths.

No sunlight reaches this deep ocean. As a result, there are no plants and other vegetation of any sort. The water temperature is just above freezing (2 - 4 degrees Celsius). Except for a rare photograph taken by a deep-sea rover underwater vehicle, no human has observed blobfish in their natural habitat.

Photo: Blobfish Habitat Map

Three types of blobfish are found close to Australia. Their habitats are colour-coded in the map. The Smooth-head Blobfish ( Psychrolutes marcidus) is found off the coasts of southern Australia, the Western Blobfish ( Psychrolutes occidentalis) lives off Western Australia and "Mr. Blobby" (Psychrolutes microporos) lives near Norfolk Island.


Blobfish Diet What Do Blobfish Eat

Photo: Snails and sea slugs part of blobfish diet

The blobfish eats crustaceans, larvae, sea slugs, sea snails, sea urchins and dead biomass drifting down from the ocean above. It is a lie-and-wait hunter and spends most of its time just floating around, waiting for food to come it's way. It then sucks the food into its enormous mouth.

Can You Eat a Blob fish?

The blobfish is not poisonous. So, yes, you can eat a blobfish. But because its body is gelatinous (like jello) and mainly made up of water, the blobfish tastes like a tasteless blob of jelly?

There is very little food in the depths at which the blobfish lives. Scientists believe its body structure, with very few muscles, very low metabolic rate, and slow movement, helps it conserve energy.


Blobfish Reproduction & Life Cycle Baby Blobfish

Photo: Blobfish guarding its eggs

The blobfish reproduces by laying tens of thousands of tiny, pink eggs in a nest on the ocean floor. Then she and her mate hover over the eggs to protect them from predators.

Deep-water fish such as the blobfish tend to live to a ripe old age because of their slow growth rates and the lack of natural predators. It has been suggested that a blobfish may live up to 130 years.


Blobfish Predators & Threats What Kills Blobfish?

Photo: deep-sea trawling captures blobfish

The main predators endangering the survival of the blobfish are humans. Deep-sea trawlers cast nets down to the depths of the ocean. Blobfish are caught up in these fishing nets and hauled to the surface, where they are tossed back into the sea as they have no commercial value. But by then, it is too late for the blobfish. It cannot survive out of its depth and is already dead.

Because so little is known about the blobfish, we do not know if it has any natural predators or threats.


Are Blobfish Endangered? How Many Blobfish are Left in the World?

The blobfish is not endangered. Some people claim that there are only 430 blobfish in the world. This is hearsay—fake news, and not based on any credible scientific evidence. We do not know how many blobfish are left in the world or if they are endangered. The World Wildlife Fund nor the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), two of the most reputable animal conservation organizations, do not list the blobfish in any of their endangered categories.

Some conservationists believe that deep-sea trawling may affect the survival of the blobfish. These assertions, however, have not been validated with any credible scientific evidence. To date, very few blobfish have been trawled up in fishing nets. Furthermore, extensive areas of their habitat off the coast of Australia are not heavily trawled. So they may, in fact, not be seriously affected by human activities.

So, the blobfish may be rarely seen, but there is no evidence that it is endangered.

25 Blobfish Facts

  1. The blobfish lives off the coast of Australia.
  2. It is a deep-sea fish that swims or floats at depths of 1,000 meters or more.
  3. The blobfish's body is designed to work under extreme pressure.
  4. Water around it acts as a container and compresses blobfish’s body into shape.
  5. For this reason, in the ocean, it looks like a giant tadpole. On land, it's a blob.
  6. The blobfish has no hard bones.
  7. Instead, its skeleton is made from soft, flexible cartilage.
  8. The blobfish has hardly any muscle. Just enough to operate its gills, open its mouth and move its fins very slowly.
  9. The blobfish's low muscle mass and usage mean it uses very little energy.
  10. Only underwater deep-sea rovers can reach the underwater depth where the blobfish lives.
  11. Unlike most fish, the blobfish has no swim bladder to keep it from sinking.
  12. Instead, its body is made of a gelatinous substance lighter than water.
  13. Because its body is lighter than water, it floats effortlessly at whatever depth it likes.
  14. It floats by adjusting the water content of gelatinous mass in its body.
  15. By doing this, the blobfish makes itself lighter or heavier.
  16. It has no scales.
  17. It is not an active hunter. It waits for food to come it's way.
  18. The blobfish female lays thousands of tiny, pink eggs.
  19. Nobody knows if the blobfish is endangered because so little is know about them and their population numbers.
  20. The blobfish named Mr Blobby was voted the ugliest animal in the world.
  21. Yes, you can eat a blobfish.
  22. But it is quite tasteless.
  23. Blobfish may live for 130 years.
  24. Three types of blobfish are found in the oceans around Australia.
  25. The blobfish is not dangerous.

The Sad Story of Mr. Blobby Winner of the Ugliest Animal in the World Award

Blobfish on the surface

Photo: Mr. Blobby - Ugliest Animal in the World

Mr Blobby (see photo) was a blobfish of the species Psychrolutes microporous. It was trawled up in 2003 by the NORFANZ scientific expedition from a depth of between 1013 to 1340 meters off the Norfolk Ridge 1300 km off the coast of eastern Australia. It was 285 mm in length and weighed 1.7kg. Although called Mr Blobby, no one knows if this fish was a male or female as it was never dissected.

Blobfish Video

Video: Excellent video about the blobfish

Mr Blobby had his "fifteen minutes of fame". He was an overnight media sensation. Today, Mr Blobby sits alone in a bottle preserved in 70% ethyl alcohol on a shelf in the Australian Museum Ichthyology Collection (AMS I.42771-001). He no longer looks like the photos. His skin has tightened, his eyes sunken, and his distinctive nose has shrunk—poor Mr Blobby.

Based on photographs of Mr Blobby, the blobfish was voted the "World's Ugliest Animal". The contest wasn't fair. Mr Blobby was out of water and dead. However, the Ugly Animal Preservation Society had good intentions when it voted the blobfish the ugliest animal in 2013. It is trying to raise awareness of endangered animals that don't grab the public's imagination because they are ugly.