Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Shainenna. Shainenna Wonders, “What is a Blobfish?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Shainenna!
If you were to make a list of animals that you would like to have a pet, which animals would make the list? While not all animals are suitable as pets, let's pretend that you can keep any animal as a pet for purposes of this mental exercise.
If you're like many kids, your list might include animals such as puppies, kittens, pandas, koala bears, and bunnies. What do these animals have in common? They're undeniably cute.
Your list would probably not include animals such as proboscis monkeys, tapirs, naked mole rats, pangolins, California condors, or blobfish. Why not? Those animals routinely make the list of the world's ugliest animals.
And which of those is considered the world's ugliest animal? That dubious distinction belongs to the poor blobfish. Have you ever seen a blobfish? While we try to avoid using the word "ugly," the blobfish does seem to be aesthetically challenged.
Chances are, if you've ever seen a blobfish, it's probably been a picture on the Internet, not a live blobfish. In fact, most people have probably seen the same picture of a seemingly-sad blobfish out of water, taken by Kerryn Parkinson during a 2003 NORFANZ expedition off the coast of New Zealand.
That blobfish, known as "Mr. Blobby," became famous a decade later when his picture was used in an Internet poll of ugly animals. After the votes were counted, the outcome was clear: the blobfish was declared the "World's Ugliest Animal" by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society in 2013.
The blobfish got a bit of a raw deal, though. It's floppy, sad face and blob-like body suffered from decompression. Blobfish live deep underwater. And we mean deep. The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) can usually be found 2,000-4,000 feet deep in the waters off the coasts of Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
At those depths, the home of the blobfish consists of minimal light and crushing pressure. As a result, the body of a blobfish features very soft bones, very little muscle, and jelly-like flesh.
When a blobfish gets caught in a net and is brought to the surface where there is very little pressure, decompression causes it to look quite different than it usually does. When it's at home on the bottom of the sea, it looks pretty much like a normal fish.
So what else do we know about the blobfish? Unfortunately, the answer is: not much. Because these fish live deep underwater in only a few areas, scientists have not been able to study them much in their natural habitat.
Scientists believe they're related to another family of fish known as flathead sculpins. Their gelatinous bodies lack a swim bladder, which is what allows other fish to maintain buoyancy. Fortunately, their bodies are less dense that the water around them, so they float just above the floor of the ocean.
Without much bodily structure or muscles, they can't really chase prey. Instead, they probably wait patiently near the sea floor for small crustaceans and other edible matter to float into their mouths.