In a 2003 ocean expedition, marine ecologist Kerryn Parkinson discovered a pink blob on the coast of New Zealand. But, being deep-sea marine creatures, they remain mysterious. Nevertheless, join us as we explore their characteristics and adaptations through our list of blobfish facts.
Also called the smooth-head blobfish, this animal might only win beauty contests sometime soon. However, it has some unique features worth discussing. One of the most noteworthy blobfish curiosities is its gelatinous body having a lower density than water. And they look different in their natural habitat. Intrigued to know why? Keep reading.
In 2013, the blobfish, also known as smooth-head blobfish, caught the public's attention when the Ugly Animal Preservation Society named it the world's ugliest animal. This peculiar honor emerged from a contest designed to raise awareness for lesser-known endangered species, often overlooked due to their unconventional appearances.
The blobfish outshone other candidates, such as the axolotl, aquatic scrotum frog, proboscis monkey, and naked mole rat. The competition might sound degrading to these creatures. But, for the participants, it sparked interest in their habitat, behavior, and conservation status.
The blobfish resides in the deep ocean, particularly at depths ranging from 2,000 to 3,900 feet below the surface. Their habitat extends across the Pacific, Atlantic & Indian Oceans, around Australia and Tasmania, and over to New Zealand. Minimal sunlight, cold temperatures, limited food resources, and low competition characterize living conditions in these depths. Consequently, the pressure reaches 60 to 120 times greater in these areas than at sea level1.
Due to the underwater topography in these regions, featuring steep slopes and underwater mountains, the blobfish can inhabit the seafloor, where it faces fewer predators. The creature's habitat is thus ideally suited for its survival and ensures limited disruption by other marine life forms. How can these creatures survive in this habitat? Read the blobfish fact below.
Unlike many other fish species, upon first glance, this deep sea marine creature has distinct facial features that help it withstand the immense pressure of its natural habitat on the sea bed. Instead of scales, they have loose skin and very soft bones. Also, they have gelatinous heads that comprise 40% of their body mass.
Although the blobfish's small, beady eyes might seem too tiny to be helpful, they are ideally suited for navigating the deep sea's low-light conditions. Furthermore, they lack jaw muscles, creating a softer and more flexible facial structure. This flexibility is essential for the blobfish's survival, enabling the creature to consume various food sources without expending excessive energy.
Instead of actively hunting or pursuing prey, the blobfish remains motionless, patiently awaiting the arrival of an unsuspecting meal. Its gelatinous body mass helps the blobfish blend into its surroundings, making it nearly invisible to potential prey such as smaller fish, sea pens, mollusks, and sea urchins.
Interestingly, these deep-sea animals catch their prey, like sea urchins, with minimal effort. The unassuming blobfish eat their meals almost leisurely, relying on the ocean currents to bring food their way. When an unsuspecting victim ventures too close, the blobfish swiftly opens its large mouth, generating a suction effect that draws in and swallows the prey.
Additionally, the blobfish's slow metabolism plays a significant role in supporting its energy-conserving lifestyle. To illustrate, if humans can survive just one meal a day and still have energy left over, they'd have the same metabolism as a blobfish.
Unlike many fish species, the blobfish doesn't have a swim bladder, a gas-filled organ typically used to control buoyancy. Instead, marine animals rely on their low-density flesh to stay in the water column. Moreover, this strange-looking fish swims only sparingly, using its small fins to move or steer along the ocean current.
Related: Did you know sharks also don't have swim bladders? Learn more about one of the well-known species of this predator with our great white shark facts.
Studying these sea creatures in their natural environment poses a significant challenge, which is why their life cycle is still mysterious. Researchers believe blobfish reproduce through external fertilization, with females laying a gelatinous mass of hundreds of thousands of eggs on the deep ocean platforms. Males then release their sperm into the water, fertilizing the eggs as they pass through the egg mass.
Due to the species' sparse population and remote habitat, scientists need help directly observing and documenting their reproduction. They assumed parental care for blobfish eggs is minimal or nonexistent, leaving them to develop independently on the sea floor.
Furthermore, the cold deep-sea temperatures likely result in a relatively long egg development period, with the larvae thought to drift as plankton in ocean currents. As they grow, the developing blobfish eventually settle on the seafloor to continue their maturation.
The blobfish is a deepwater fish, and while its exact lifespan is not clear, deep-sea fish are known to live longer than their shallow-water counterparts. Due to a lack of natural predators and a slow rate of growth and reproduction, blobfish could survive for over 100 years.
The blobfish's gelatinous body becomes a hindrance when the fish ascends to the surface. As pressure decreases, they lose shape and take on a distorted, saggy, and droopy appearance commonly associated with the ugly look we know. The absence of a swim bladder and skeletal structure only worsens this deformation, as the fish's body struggles to adapt to the significant pressure change.
Once commonly found among the bycatch of deep-sea trawling expeditions, the blobfish's mysterious disappearance has left scientists puzzled and concerned.
Trawling, a technique that drags trawling nets across the ocean floor, unintentionally catches various species, including the blobfish. However, stricter regulations on deep-sea trawling have emerged in recent years to protect fragile marine ecosystems and their inhabitants, significantly reducing unintended blobfish catches.
Related: Dolphins also fall victim to fishing nets. Know more about their conservation status in our dolphin facts.
The elusive blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) continues to perplex researchers with its mysterious nature. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has not studied them; therefore, they don't have any conservation status classification yet. It clearly shows that we need to collect more data to accurately assess the species' population size, trends, or potential threats.
As discussed in previous facts about the weird and mysterious blobfish, we can understand why studying these peculiar species has numerous challenges. Besides the high-pressure environment itself, it is also dark and cold. Despite that, we can observe similarities with their relatives, such as the blob sculpin (Psychrolutes phrictus).
By doing our part in conserving the environment, we can help preserve blobfish habitats and ensure their survival. Hopefully, advanced technology in the future can help us better understand them in their natural habitat. But for now, let's focus on our responsibility to protect their homes.
Psychrolutes marcidus summary page. (n.d.-c). FishBase.