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Blobfish

Blobfish Facts

Size 12-27 inches (30-70 cm)
Speed Unknown
Weight Up to 21 pounds (9.5 kg)
Lifespan Unknown
Food Crustaceans, sea urchins, mollusks
Predators No natural enemies
Habitat Pacific
Order Cottidae
Family Psychrolutidae
Scientific name Psychrolutes
Characteristics Gelatinous body, no teeth, no muscles

Main Characteristics

Blobfish are species of deep-sea fish that live at depths of 2,000-9,200 feet (600-2,800 meters). Down there, it's pitch black and the pressure is so high that no human can survive there. In its natural habitat, the blobfish looks like a normal fish. However, when it comes up to the water surface it changes its appearance. Its body expands to such an extent that its true shape becomes unrecognizable. It looks like an ugly blob.

Blobfish Blobfish - Photo: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Species

There are two species: the Psychrolutes marcidus and Psychrolutes phrictus. They differ in size and habitat.


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Distribution and Habitat

Blobfish are deep sea fish. They inhabit the seabed. Psychrolutes marcidus lives in the southwest Pacific off Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand at a depth of 2,000-3,900 feet (600-1,200 meters). Psychrolutes phrictus lives in the North Pacific off Japan, California and in the Bering Sea at a depth of 2,600-9,200 feet (800-2,800 meters).

Life Style

Little is known about their lifestyle, but blobfish are most likely solitary creatures. Whether it is day or night, there is no light. Therefore, it is impossible to say if the fish are active during the day or night. They don't do much anyway. Since they can't actively move, they bury themselves in the sand and wait for prey to come along.

Blobfish Blobfish - Photo: NOAA/MBARI via NOAA Photo Library

Anatomy and Appearance

Above and Under Water

Blobfish are known as misshapen, pink-colored fish. However, they only look like this on land - because their bodies are blown up due to the lack of pressure. Their true shape is only visible underwater.

Size and Weight

Psychrolutes marcidus grows to about 12 inches (30 cm) long. The species Psychrolutes phrictus is significantly larger. It has a body length of up to 27 inches (70 cm) and a weight of up to 20 pounds (9.5 kg).


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Body

Blobfish consist largely of a slimy mass that has a similar density to the water around them. This is why they can “float” over the seabed without much effort. The head is broad and flat. The eyes are large and set wide apart.

Skin

Psychrolutes marcidus has smooth skin. Psychrolutes phrictus has spines on its back.

Muscles

Blobfish have almost no muscles. This doesn't seem practical as it's hard to move without sufficient muscle strength. Things are different with blobfish. It doesn't need to actively move. It floats along the ground and waits for prey to swim into its mouth.

Bones

Blobfish have no skeleton. Its backbone consists of a few, soft bones.

Swim Bladder

Fish usually have a swim bladder that helps them maintain their position and not sink to the bottom or float up on the surface of the water. However, blobfish don't have a swim bladder. It would be crushed due to the high pressure underwater.

Blobfish Blobfish - Photo: NOAA/MBARI via NOAA Photo Library

Diet

Blobfish feed on crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins and sea feathers. Since they have no teeth, they simply swallow the prey whole.

Behavior

How Do Blobfish Defend Themselves?

Blobfish have no muscles. As a result, they can't move well. They can't make a quick escape either. Fortunately, they have no natural enemies, so they don't have to defend themselves.

Senses and Abilities

Pressure

Where blobfish live, the pressure is 60-120 times greater than at sea level. They inhabit the seabed at a depth of 2,000-9,200 feet (600-2,800 meters). Due to the gelatinous mass that makes up their body, the pressure doesn't affect them.

Is the Blobfish Poisonous?

Blobfish don't absorb poison from their prey or produce venom themselves. They are completely non-toxic.

Is the Blobfish Dangerous?

Blobfish look like they can be quite dangerous. But they're not. They have no teeth, which is why they can't bite.

Blobfish Blobfish - Photo: NOAA/MBARI (above) via NOAA Photo Library, NOAA/Crew and officers of NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN (below) via NOAA Photo Library on flickr

Life Expectancy

There is (still) no reliable information about the lifespan of blobfish.

Enemies and Threats

Natural Enemies

The blobfish has no natural enemies.

Human Impact

Fishing Nets

For the blobfish, humans are the only threat. Since the fish is inedible, it is not hunted, but it dies as bycatch in fishing nets, so-called bottom trawls. The nets are lowered to great depths, dragged across the ground and then brought back to the surface. The closer the fish come to the surface of the water, the less pressure is on their bodies. This causes them to inflate into a misshapen balloon. They die.

Plastic

Blobfish eat plastic that floats across the ocean floor. This can be fatal for them.

Climate Change

Climate change is also changing seabed habitats. In the future, the number of prey animals in that area might decrease significantly. But the blobfish can't simply move to somewhere else - because it has no muscles. If it can no longer find food, it will die of starvation.

Importance for the Ecosystem

Blobfish help maintain a natural balance in the seabed habitat. Small animals are their main source of food, preventing them from overpopulating.

Reproduction

Little is known about the reproductive behavior of blobfish. They lay pink eggs about 1.5 inches (40 mm) in size. They are sticky and attach to rocks. The female stays close to the nest and even protects it with its body. Images from underwater vehicles show that the eggs are very clean. Therefore, biologists suspect that the female “fans away” any kind of sand or dirt with her fins. If this turns out to be true, the blobfish would be the first deep-sea fish to practice brood care. After a while the babies hatch from the eggs.

Blobfish Blobfish - Photo: Val_Iva/Shutterstock

Discovery

The blobfish made its initial appearance in scientific literature back in 1926, but it wasn't until 2003 that it became known all around the world. At this time a research ship from the NORFANZ expedition discovered the animal and marine ecologist Kerryn Parkinson took a photo of its slimy body, which went around the world. It was affectionately called Mr. Blobby.

Observing Blobfish

At depths of 9,200 feet (2,800 meters) the pressure is so great that no diver would survive a trip down there. To observe blobfish, an underwater vehicle that can be operated remotely from the water's surface is necessary.

Blobfish as a Pet

Wondering if you can have a blobfish as a pet? Fish enthusiasts might be curious, but: No, it's not possible. Blobfish need high pressure environments, something that aquariums can't provide.

Fun Facts

The Ugliest Animal

In 2013, the blobfish was named the ugliest animal in the world by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. What's your opinion: Do you think the blobfish is ugly?

The Blobfish Is Related To:

  • Lumpfish

Animals in the Same Biome:


Perciformes Species Fact Sheets


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