Science Focus (issue 24)

Among the world’s ugliest animals, the blobfish will always be ranked near the top – one only needs to look at a single picture of them to understand. With their squashed flat bodies and bulging eyes, any measurement of beauty would put them into a disadvantaged position. Here are some facts about the blobfish, besides ugliness, that may surprise you. Blobfish and Where to Find Them Blobfish, fish in the family Psychrolutidae [1], lives at the bottom of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans [1-3]. They live at depths of approximately 600–1200 m under water, where the pressure is about 60–120 times that of atmospheric pressure [2, 4]. At this pressure, humans will surely be crushed to death, as our lungs will be unable to expand to breathe [2]. Little to no light reaches these depths; typically, beyond 200 meters, there is not enough light for photosynthesis to occur, and no light reaches beyond 1000 meters [5]. A research expedition at these depths would be too expensive, so very little is known about the blobfish and its habitat [3, 6]. About Mr. Blobby The current picture that we have of the blobfish (Psychrolutes microporos) is from a deep-sea trawl during a research expedition in 2003 [1]. The researchers affectionately named the fish Mr. Blobby [1], due to the (rather obvious) fact that it looks like, well, a blob. Despite Mr. Blobby’s fame (or infamy), we don’t even know whether Mr. Blobby is male or female, since no one is going to perform an autopsy on arguably the Internet’s most famous preserved fish specimen now [6]. Little is known about the blobfish’s biology. For example, how old can they get in general? Although another deep-sea fish, rougheye rockfish, which lives at depths of 150–450 m, can live for over 200 years! One thing we know, however, is that they are mostly a The World’s “Ugliest” Animals: The Blobfish Files 「醜陋」動物之最:水滴魚檔案 jelly-like mass with very little muscle. While most other fish have a swim bladder to maintain buoyancy, the blobfish doesn’t have one because gas-filled cavities would collapse under such an extreme pressure. The blobfish is instead a mass of mostly water and fat which offers a density slightly less than that of water, allowing it to float above the sea floor without much effort. The blobfish can be an ambush predators when it comes to hunting for snails, brittle stars, anemone and other bottom dwellers. As for reproduction, they lay eggs on rocks, thousands at a time, and expectant mothers would guard their nests together. Despite multiple campaigns striving to “Save the Blobfish”, the truth is that we don’t even have enough data to conclude whether it is an endangered species, and how bottom trawling and ocean acidification could affect the species [2, 7]. Whether Photo credit: Kerryn Parkinson, Australian Museum © NORFANZ Founding Parties By Sonia Choy 蔡蒨珩