Science Focus (issue 24)

9 there are millions or hundreds of blobfish in the world, nevertheless, one thing we must hold onto is to care for all animals, no matter their appearance. Just like humans, we can’t judge an animal by its cover, after all. The Psychology of Ugliness … and a Misunderstanding You might have seen videos of ugly animals around social media, but have you ever thought about why people even share them? At first thought, it seems like humans are programmed to appreciate beauty and therefore repel ugly things, but there seems to be a sort of “ugly-cute” that humans find endearing. These “ugly-cute” animals are usually characterized by big bulging eyes, large heads, and soft-looking bodies [8]. If these sound slightly familiar, it’s because things we consider cute and lovable, such as puppies and infants, also share the above characteristics. Ethologists suggested that humans are naturally built to take care of their offspring, so seeing these features causes a rush of emotion in us which manifests as cuteness [9]. So, it is no wonder that Mr. Blobby was voted the world’s ugliest animal by the Ugly Animals Preservation Society in 2013 – it is ugly, yes, but still endearing in a certain way. Yet, some might sill argue that Mr. Blobby is not ugly at all – in its usual habitat, it just looks like, well, a 水滴魚必定高踞世上最醜動物排行榜的頭幾位,任何 看過水滴魚照片的人都會清楚明白,牠們扁平的身軀和凸 出的眼睛,絕對不會符合任何學派對美學的描述。除了醜陋 的外貌外,以下是水滴魚令人驚嘆的二三事。 水滴魚與牠們的產地 水滴魚泛指隱棘杜父魚科(Psychrolutidae)的成員 [1],牠們住在大西洋、太平洋及印度洋的海底 [1-3],深度 約為 600–1200 米,那裡的水壓是大氣壓力的 60–120 倍 [2, 4],在這種壓力下人類肯定會被壓成一團而死,肺部 會因無法擴張而不能呼吸 [2]。光線亦很難到達這個深度: 基本上由 200 米起,熹微的光線已不足以支撐光合作用; 由1000米開始,海洋就只剩一片漆黑 [5]。由於在這種深 度進行考察的費用過於高昂,因此我們對水滴魚及其生境 的了解並不多 [3, 6]。 關於水滴先生 現時我們看見的水滴魚(Psychrolutes microporos) 照片來自2003年一次深海考察中的拖網打撈任務 [1]。當 時的研究員打趣地把這條魚取名為「水滴先生」(Mr. Blobby)[1],原因也不用多解釋,因為牠的 外型就像水滴一樣。 雖然水滴先生已經遐邇聞名(或是說因醜 陋的外表而聲名狼藉),但我們始終未能得知牠是 先生還是小姐,畢竟沒有人想解剖這個可能是在互聯 網上最有名的魚類標本 [6]。我們對這個物種的認識也不 深,譬如我們不知道水滴魚一般可以活多久,我們只知道另 一種住在水底150–450 米,叫阿留申平鮋的深海魚可擁 有長達 200 年的壽命!但有一件事我們是知道的,就是水 regular fish. The pressure of the deep sea helps hold the blobfish’s body together in a fish-like shape, but when it is dragged out of the water, the sudden drop of pressure causes its body to expand into a balloon, which looks very different from its usual appearance – just as humans would certainly look a bit squashed 1,200 m underwater. It is no surprise that even the photographer, Dr. Kerryn Parkinson, admitted that the famous picture of Mr. Blobby was no decent scientific image [6]. But seeing how loved Mr. Blobby is now across the world, it might not be a bad thing after all!