In the early 2010s, a marine creature discovered in the deep sea became an internet sensation. With its flabby face and limp, jelly-like body, the blobfish isn’t the most visually appealing species out there. However, its unforgettable appearance has been memorialized in internet memes and soft toys.
The first blobfish was found by researchers off the coast of New Zealand in 1983. The blobfish rose to fame after another specimen was photographed in 2003. The fish in the picture is the one that went viral. It was nicknamed Mr. Blobby and even won a World’s Ugliest Animal Competition hosted by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society in 2013.
The blobfish is famous for being ugly, but really, it’s just misunderstood. It turns out that the most commonly shared photos of the creature, which show the fish out of water, are not actually an accurate representation of what it looks like in its natural habitat. So, here’s everything you need to know about the blobfish.
Blobfish are officially known as Psychrolutes marcidus. They live in deep waters off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, at depths between 2,000 and 4,000 feet. They have pinkish, squishy bodies, very few muscles, and no teeth. They’re only about a foot long and lack a swim bladder.
Instead, they have this internal organ, much like an air sac, that helps control their buoyancy. They float slightly above the ocean floor, waiting for small crustaceans, sea snails, and other edible matter to pass by so they can have their dinner.
Scientists have found that the blobfish might not be so unattractive when it’s not taken out of the water. Blobfish live in some of the deepest pockets of the ocean, where the atmospheric pressure is very high. When a blobfish is removed from the water, the rapid change in pressure causes damage to its body and distorts its features.
Out of the water, its gelatinous tissue can’t maintain its structure and ends up looking like a shapeless mass. That’s why Mr. Blobby appears the way that he does in the viral pictures. When underwater in its natural environment, experts believe that blobfish look pretty much like regular fish, with slightly bulbous heads, black eyes, and feathery fins.
Because blobfish live so far down under, they are hard to observe, so little is known about them. Marine biologists are unsure how blobfish mate, but they believe the creatures probably just cling to each other, given their limited movement.
Their life expectancy is also unknown, but most deep-sea fish tend to live for a long time. Some species can live for over 100 years.