Blobfish

Posted on the 29th November 2013

379943-494120520637290-144317987-n.jpg&wOne of the most odd looking of all fish species has be the 'Blobfish' (Psychrolutes marcidus). The Blobfish is a deep sea fish of the family Psychrolutidae, inhabiting the deep waters off the coasts of mainland Australia and Tasmania. Adults are known to grow up to 12 inches in length and their distinctive features make the Blobfish look more like a ball of slime than a living creature. When looked at straight on, the face resembles more like one of a human than that of a fish, where 2 large eyes peer forward and a large flap of skin folds over the wide mouth to form 'a nose'. In fact so large is the head of a Blobfish, that it weighs a surprising third of its total body weight and the rest of the body descends dramatically into a short tail.

 

Blobfish live at depths of between 2,000–3,900 feet, so is only rarely seen by humans. So deep is its habitat, the pressure is 80 times denser than that at sea level, which make gas bladders inefficient for maintaining buoyancy. Instead, the flesh of the Blobfish is primarily a gelatinous mass with a density slightly less than water. This property allows the fish to simply float above the sea floor without expending energy on swimming. Its relative lack of muscle reduces the pressure on the Blobfish’s body and is not a significant disadvantage to survival as it primarily swallows food that floats in front of it. At the bottom of the sea, a Blobfish basically remains stationary throughout its life and studies show their diet consists mainly of urchins, molluscs, crabs, lobsters and other slow-moving ocean bottom feeders. Even though Blobfish literally have no muscle, they are still able to open and close their mouth to eat, but it is not known exactly how much food is required for an individuals survival. However one thing that is for certain, if prey is scarce, a Blobfish will sadly perish from starvation.

 

Very little else is known about this species but it is thought that female Blobfish do not have a normal mating schedule, and often mate whenever a male crosses by. A female is known to lay up to 1000 pink eggs at a time, where she stays with them, floating above them the whole time as if to protect these. It was once thought that the Blobfish regularly “cleaned” the eggs to make sure they hatched, but this method is still relatively unknown today.

 

Aside from this, there is one alarming fact concerning the Blobfish's future. Unfortunately due to their distinct inability to swim, Blobfish are easily being caught as part of the by-catch (as this fish is inedible) within the nets used for deep water 'bottom trawling'. Such trawling is known to be one of the most destructive forms of fishing. Even though there are some deep water protected areas around sea mounts in the Southern Ocean, that is only intended to protect the coral and as these fish are restricted to these waters, in what may be its only habitat, not for the Blobfish's benefit! Let's hope that something changes very soon to ensure the protection and survival of this truly amazing fish species.

 

Thank you for reading this week's edition of FIN ('Fascinating Ichthyological Nugget'): the easiest way to propel your aquatic knowledge! We sincerely hope that you'll find these of interest and want to share them with your friends…

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