The Blobfish - Psychrolutes marcidus
Blobfish are curious creatures - they come to us looking like deflated “Ziggy” caricatures, which is not at all what they resemble in life; they are incredibly lazy, yet incredibly efficient; they are more gelatinous cube than fish, and they display bizarre and unique behaviors that are not known in other species.
The Psychrolutidae (from Gr. psychrolouteo, “to have a cold bath”) family contains the fatheads, fathead sculpins, and blobfish. All are sea-floor dwelling fish, found between 330ft (100m) and 9200ft (2800m) below sea level, and the Psychrolutes themselves live solely off of Australia, Tasmania, and parts of New Zealand. The most famous (at least online) of the Psychrolutes is the blobfish, Psychrolutes marcidus.
Unlike most fish, blobfish don’t have gas bladders for buoyancy. Instead, they’re primarily composed of a goopy gelatinous flesh with a specific gravity just slightly above the ocean water, and almost no muscle. This allows them to bob along the ocean floor without expending much energy. It’s also what makes them collapse completely when they’re brought into the air - the flesh and skin can’t hold up like the muscle and bones of other fish can. Blobfish consume most small creatures that fall to or reside upon the ocean floor, especially crustaceans such as crabs.
Despite their normally-“lazy” disposition, blobfish (especially the blob sculpin) display a curious behavior with their eggs: the male protects them until they hatch, often by almost “sitting” on them. Presumably this is the most efficient way to protect a brood where one cannot find a suitable crevasse and no plant life exists, but it has not been seen in any other deep-sea fish.
The Psychrolutes were first discovered in 1926 by Australian ichthyologist Alan Riverstone McCulloch, during dredging to survey local fauna off of East Australia. Dredging today still poses the largest threat to this fish and its relatives; by-catches during deep-sea commercial fishing and lobster trawling are driving the blobfish quickly towards extinction. How wryly ironic, when this fish is completely inedible.
Blobfish on Fishbase
Blobfish on Fish Index
Blobfish: world’s most ‘miserable looking’ marine animal facing extinction. The Telegraph, 26 Jan 2010.
Top Left: Blobfish greeting card from Oceana.org
Top Right: Knit blobfish from Tatting my Doilies
Bottom Left: Swimming Blobfish from The Frog Bag
Bottom Right: Blobfish and Snailfish, TEARA New Zealand.
Blobfish. Almost as cool a fish as the Spiny Lumpsucker.