Monster Monday: the Blobfish

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^Top image: The innocent but remarkable-looking blobfish is threatened by deep-sea trawling, a form of fishing that involves dragging nets along the sea floor. Credit: © Kerryn Parkinson, NORFANZ/Caters News/ZUMA Press

When asked which creature is the floppiest, ugliest, and “blobbiest glob” in the animal kingdom, many people might answer, “the blobfish.” With its beady black eyes, bulbous nose, and dumpy frown, the face of the blobfish is unnervingly similar to that of a gloomy human. Loose, scale-free skin covers its plump, squishy body, which grows to about 1 foot (30 centimeters) in length. It has soft bones and deflates into a saggy wad of pink jelly when removed from the water.

Found only in temperate (mild) waters off southeastern Australia and Tasmania, the blobfish lives at depths ranging from about 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 meters). At this depth, water pressure is extreme and animals need special body structures in order to avoid being crushed. Closer to the surface, most fish have a swim bladder (gas-filled organ) that keeps them from sinking to the bottom. Such an organ, however, would collapse in the deepest parts of the ocean. Instead, the body of the blobfish is filled with a gelatinous, fatty substance that is less dense than water, allowing it to float just above the ocean floor.

Compared with other fish, the blobfish is a poor swimmer. In fact, it usually chooses not to swim, preferring to lazily hover above the sea floor or “walk” using its large pectoral (side) fins. The blobfish feeds on sea slugs and worms. These may be the only prey too slow to escape the sluggish blobfish. Unfortunately, trawling poses a threat to the blobfish. This form of deep-sea fishing involves dragging nets along the sea floor. Such fishing accidentally catches many blobfish and damages their habitat.

In 2013, the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, a British comedy and conservation group, honored the blobfish with the title of World’s Ugliest Animal. As the society’s mascot, the blobfish reminds people that cute tiger cubs, fair foxes, and pretty peacocks are not the only animals that should be saved from the threat of extinction. Even the homeliest, baggiest, and “blobbiest” of animals deserves to be protected.

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