Monday, December 2, 2013

Sympathy for the ugliest animal in the world

by Brandon Peoples

Meet the blobfish, one of my favorite underwater underdogs. The blobfish lives in incredibly deep water (up to 4,000 feet!) off the coast of Australia, where it whiles away the days hovering over the bottom and eating whatever drifts in front of it.
Blobfish aren't exactly the most charming fish in the sea. Source

The blobfish has a face only a mother could love. In fact, it’s downright ugly.

Its thick, fleshy lips are curved into a constant frown and its body looks like it’s made out of bleached-out cherry Jell-O. On top of that, it’s got small beady eyes, stubby little pectoral fins, and a nose that looks like a dripping extension of its forehead.

Everyone loves to hate the blobfish. Its sappy looking image is plastered all over the internet as the subject of countless ridiculous memes. I won’t give them the dignity of a link, but you can Google them.

Press for the blobfish hasn’t been all bad, however. It was recently voted World’s Ugliest Animal, and is now the mascot for the Ugly Animal Preservation Society—a group dedicated to raising awareness for the conservation of low-profile threatened species.

Positive attention for the blobfish is coming at a good time, too. This species is on the decline due to bycatch from deep sea trawling. Although blobfish are basically inedible, they are often captured and inadvertently killed in the hunt for food fish.

Michael Hearst wrote a song for the blobfish on Songs for Unusual Creatures. Source

But because this fish’s charm is an acquired taste, society has been slow to jump on the “save the blobfish” bandwagon. So, below I list a few of the blobfish’s more deplorable traits, and make the case that this fish is actually an impressive gem of natural history that should be protected.

It’s just a blob of goo. That’s because the blobfish is built to minimize its energy usage in an environment where pressure can be a dozen times that of sea level. The blobfish has very little muscle…and that’s a good thing. Blobfish flesh is actually a gelatinous mass, just slightly more dense than water. This enables the blobfish to hold its vertical position without investing in a swim bladder.

That pale pink skin gives me the creeps. That’s camouflage! Red light is the first in the visible spectrum to be filtered by water. In the darkness of the deep, the blobfish is virtually invisible. 

How about spreading a more endearing blobfish meme?
I don’t trust those beady little eyes. In the deep sea, eyes are overrated. Blobfish spend most of their time in the dark, so they can rarely see their prey. Instead, they rely on other senses to catch a meal.

But it’s so lazy—it just sits there. Hey, why spend all that energy chasing down prey when you can just sit back and wait for it to come to you? What do you expect from a fish with hardly any muscle mass? 

So, next time you see one of those silly memes, think of how well the blobfish is adapted to its deep sea environment. Hopefully, we can keep this fish on the “World’s Ugliest Animals” list, and off the list of extinct species. 

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1 comment:

  1. Great article, as a business consultant for a shark research facility, I love the different articles on fisheries, new/uncommon species findings, and conservation efforts. The only thing I would ask that you write on (randomly or if you have before I apologize) are when recreational seasons come out, fishing regulations, etc. I'm a FL spearo in training and always want to stay within FWC and state/federal guidelines.

    Gotta keep fish around for future generations.

    Keep them coming!!!


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