Blobfish Facts About the World’s Ugliest Animal

blobfish swimming in ocean

Photo: Blobfish swimming in the ocean

The blobfish, also referred to as a "blob fish," is a deep-sea creature that lives thousands of feet below the ocean surface.  It has a soft jelly-like body that is perfectly suited for the extremely high water pressure of its deep-sea environment. But take it out of water, and its jelly-like body loses its shape and collapses into a featureless blob. This blob-like appearance earned the blobfish the title of one of the world’s ugliest animals. Its scientific name is Psychrolutes marcidus.


Blobfish Description What Does a Blobfish Look Like?

blobfish out of water

Photo: blobfish on land with its body collapsed

The blobfish is a tadpole-shaped deep-sea fish that can grow up to 30cm (1ft) long and weigh around 2kg (2.2lb). It has a large bulbous head, black eyes and a large fat-filled snout. Its head makes up 40% of its total body mass, while the rest is body tapers quickly to a tiny tail. The blobfish’s skin is pink/grey, smooth and loose with no scales. It has a large mouth with small villiform teeth resembling brush bristles.

The most notable characteristic of the blobfish is its body, which is made up of a gelatinous substance with a density lower than water. This low-density body structure gives the blobfish natural buoyancy to float above the seafloor and eliminates the need for air bladders like those of other fish. In fact, due to extreme water pressures where the blobfish lives, a gas bladder would just explode! Because of its unusual body, the blobfish can control its buoyancy by managing the density of this gelatinous mass. As a result, it expends very little energy on floating and swimming.

The blobfish has a unique skeletal and musculature system specially adapted to living in the depths of the ocean. Its bones are made from incredibly soft and compressible cartilage, capable of withstanding immense pressure without breaking. Moreover, a minimal amount of muscle is attached to its skeleton for the essential functions of life. These include breathing with its gills, opening its mouth and moving its fins gently to swim just above the ocean floor. Its low muscle mass has the added benefit of using 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

Photo: Blobfish on land with collapsed body

The blobfish is not ugly; it’s just adapted for underwater life. Underwater, the blobfish looks like a typical bottom-dwelling fish. However, take it out of water, and it looks like a blob. This is because the high water pressure around its body in its deep-sea habitat keeps its body in the correct shape. But out of water, where air pressure is a lot lower than water pressure, its body collapses and loses shape because of the loss of pressure around its body.

 


What makes a Blobfish a Blob The Blobfish Body Explained

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 Does the Blobfish Live?

Photo: Blobfish Habitat Map

The blobfish lives in the oceans off the coast of Australia, at depths of 1,000 meters near the seafloor. No sunlight reaches this deep ocean. As a result, there are no plants or 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: Illustration of depth at which blobfish live

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 go down to these depths.

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

Can You Eat a Blobfish?

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 and survive on a very limited diet.


Blobfish Reproduction & Life Cycle Blobfish Babies?

Photo: Blobfish guarding its eggs

The female blobfish lays tens of thousands of tiny, pink eggs in a nest on the ocean floor. Then she and her partner 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.

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.


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

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. The blobfish is not extinct or endangered. 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 extinct or endangered.


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.

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.


25 Blobfish Facts

Excellent video about the blobfish

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  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. Instead, its skeleton is made from soft, flexible cartilage.
  7. The blobfish has no teeth. So, a blobfish can't bite its food. It just swallows its food whole.
  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 the 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 known 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. But it is quite tasteless.
  22. Another sea creature that has a gelatinous body is the jellyfish.
  23. The blobfish has a lifespan of up to 130 years.
  24. Three types of blobfish are found in the oceans around Australia.
  25. The blobfish is not dangerous.