A drawing of a Blobfish

If you’ve wondered long enough on the “internets”, you might have come across Buzzfeed-like lists with off-putting fish, and usually, the Blobfish finds itself near the top. The Blobfish, scientifically belongs to the genus of the Psychrolutes, and has gained notoriety as one of the ugliest creatures in the ocean in the universe. In fact, the pictures that you can find on the internet if you google “Blobfish” are so disgusting that I refuse to post them on this blog. But the truth is that this is not how these fish look like in their natural habitat.

I was watching this Vox video on YouTube about the physics of high pressure, and near the 2:33 mark, the presenter said the following “There’s a Blobfish, they look like depressed jello on the surface, but down here the pressure keeps them trim”, and then went on with showing this slide:

A screenshot from the Vox video titled "Something weird happens when you keep squeezing" showing a Blobfish

The second I saw it I felt like I was on an alternate reality; how had I missed that all these years?! So I went on a Blobfish safari.

Looks can be deceiving

Apparently, Blobfish are deep-sea dwellers, found at depths of up to 1300m (4,000ft) below the surface in the waters off the coast of Australia and Tasmania. Because the water pressure in these depths is very high, they have very little structural support. When brought to the surface, they undergo a drastic change in pressure, their body expands and collapses, and their eyes, mouth, and nose become more visible. It’s essential to understand that the Blobfish looks drastically different in its natural habitat.

Here’s an example of one in its natural environment:

A psychrolutid fish, most likely a Western Blobfish, Psychrolutes occidentalis, photographed by an ROV, at a depth of approximately 1220 m, 70 km off Barrow Island, North West Shelf, Western Australia.
A psychrolutid fish, most likely a Western Blobfish, Psychrolutes occidentalis, photographed by an ROV, at a depth of approximately 1220 m, 70 km off Barrow Island, North West Shelf, Western Australia. Image: SEA SERPENT

Blobfish consistency

According to National Geographic, “Unlike many other fish, which use a gas-filled sac to control buoyancy, blobfish don’t have a swim bladder. If they did, it would implode due to the extreme pressure. “Instead, the animal’s soft body has a high water and fat content, which helps them withstand the high pressure. The thick layer of jelly-like flesh under their skin makes blobfish slightly less dense than water and allows them to bob along the seabed.”

OK, it wouldn’t win a fish pageant but at least it could find a lifelong partner or something.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *