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What is a Blobfish?

By Deanira Bong
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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With no muscle in its body, the blobfish looks like a gelatinous globule floating near the sea bed. It sometimes appears to have a human-like face with eyes, lips and a disproportionately big nose. If taken out of the water, it dries out and loses its human-like appearance. Also known as Psychrolutes marcidus, the animal belongs to the family Psychrolutidae, or fatheads.

The blobfish can grow up to 12 inches (30.5 cm) in length. A deep sea fish, it lives at depths of up to 2,700 feet (823 m) in the waters off the coasts of southeast Australia and Tasmania, although there have been few sightings of this peculiar creature because of the extreme depth of its habitat. Although its exact life expectancy is unknown, deep water fish generally tend to live longer than shallow water fish, with some deep sea species living for as long as 130 years because of their slow rate of reproduction, growth and aging.

Unlike most fish, the blobfish has no gas bladder to maintain buoyancy. Its gelatinous body and low density allows it to hover in water, which has a higher density. It has no muscle, so it rarely moves, and it spends most of its time floating in the same area. This preserves energy in its deep sea habitat, where there is little food available. Scientists believe that the fish does not hunt; instead, it opens its mouth and sucks in little organic particles that drift by.

The female lays thousands of eggs at once and stays near them until they hatch, creating a nest. She usually floats above the eggs or sometimes rests against them. Several females often nest near one another, a behavior for which the cause still is unknown.

Although the blobfish is inedible and not fished for food, it faces threats from over-fishing. It shares its living habitat with edible bottom trawlers such as crabs and lobsters, causing it to be picked up accidentally by fishermen. This problem is magnified because fishermen in the waters where it lives practice deep trawling, a fishing method in which the fishermen cast their nets deep to the bottom of the sea and drag them along the sea bed, using heavy gear before pulling up the nets. This animal sometimes gets trapped in these nets, along with other deep sea creatures, and scientists fear that it could become endangered if no measures are taken to preserve the species.

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Discussion Comments
By anon942354 — On Mar 27, 2014

How do they reproduce? Sexually or asexually?

By anon934283 — On Feb 19, 2014

How do they reproduce? I'm guessing sexually because there can be females, but I didn't read about a male Blobfish.

By anon933729 — On Feb 17, 2014

I have seen this pic of this blob fish like, a thousand times! They are so ugly!

By anon349166 — On Sep 23, 2013

How do they eliminate waste and what do they eliminate?

By anon252914 — On Mar 07, 2012

I need to know if anything in the sea tries to eat the animal and how its features help it survive.

By hanley79 — On Jul 03, 2011

@malmal - Good point, if they haven't studied it while it's alive then that's why they don't know much about it.

The article says blobfish can get up to a foot long, but since we don't know for sure even how long it lives, is it possible it just keeps growing as it ages? Imagine if there are 130 year old giant blobfish somewhere hundreds of miles beneath the ocean -- now there's a premise for a sci-fi movie for you!

Good article, nice amount of blobfish information considering how little even scientists know about this weird fish. The fact that its body has lower density than the water around it is just weird for a deep sea fish. Usually when the water pressure goes up, the animals living in that water adapt to live with more highly pressurized bodies and systems.

Think of it this way -- if the blobfish was an animal up here out of water, it would float like a helium balloon because it was lighter than the air! The blobfish would make a disturbing looking balloon, though, so don't think about that too much.

By malmal — On Jul 02, 2011

@anamur - I agree, the blobfish is just really fascinating. A fish without a gas bladder to help it float or sink is really unique; it's like it's part jellyfish or something, except that even jellyfish move to give themselves some means of propulsion. How can an animal literally have no muscles in its body?

Has anybody ever actually researched the blobfish while it was swimming, alive and in its natural habitat? Maybe the kind of muscles it has deteriorate into a gelatinous flesh blob when it isn't under the deep sea pressure its supposed to be living in?

I'd love to see a video of a blobfish in the water. Does it just drift around, or does it actually deliberately move at all?

By SkittisH — On Jul 01, 2011

@burcidi - believe it or not, the blobfish has officially been dubbed the ugliest animal in the world. I think that's a bit harsh -- to me it's not hideous so much as bizarre looking. Because of its pink color and human-shape features, not to mention the gelatinous texture of the flesh, it unfortunately reminds me of a fetus or something similar.

All poking fun at its look aside, the blobfish is a really unique animal. I don't know about anybody else, but I think the fact that blobfish habitat happens to be near Australia is the reason for it being so unique.

Australia gets all of the cool and bizarre creatures -- I want to visit there someday, except I'll be afraid of the blue-ringed octopi and funnel-web spider colonies! I wouldn't mind seeing a blobfish, though. Do they have those in aquariums at all?

By burcidi — On Jul 01, 2011

I've heard the blobfish called the ugliest, the saddest looking, the most miserable fish ever. But I hope this doesn't prevent people from fighting and lobbying to prevent its extinction.

All living things have a place in our ecosystem and the more extinct species there are, the less stable, less healthy and less fascinating our ecosystem would be.

I realize that the blobfish is not going to get as much attention as the Panda bear at risk of extinction in China. But we can still do our part to help prevent blobfish from being wiped off the face of the earth.

The best way to do this is to only buy seafood, especially crabs and the like, from brands which do not fish by deep sea trawling.

By burcinc — On Jul 01, 2011

I read that male blobfish also sit on and protect the eggs sometimes. If the female is sitting on the eggs, the male also stays close to the eggs for protection. There is also a theory that the male blobfish remain close to the eggs to fan them with water and keep the eggs clean from sand.

The most fascinating fact about blobfish though is the number of eggs they lay. Scientists once found four different nests next to one another on the ocean floor. Their estimate of the total number of eggs there were over 100, 000!

I wonder why they lay so many eggs? If blobfish could be at risk of becoming endangered, I assume that there aren't too many of them in the oceans. Are most eggs destroyed by predators? Is that why they need to lay so many eggs?

By serenesurface — On Jun 30, 2011

You have to see a picture of this fish! It really has some human-like features! When I saw a picture, I first couldn't believe that this was a fish. It looked more like a cartoon of a human to me!

It has a large mouth that looks as though it is frowning, a large drooping nose in the center of its face and small black eyes. I read that scientists still don't know what the purpose of the nose is. Since this is a rare fish that is only found in some parts of the world, most of the knowledge about the blobfish is assumed.

Scientists assume that it feeds itself by sitting in ambush and waiting for food because of the shape and structure of the fish. But the information is not definitive and we don't know the details because no one has actually watched it eat before.

It's such an interesting species. It's amazing how different some groups of fish are from others.

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