Black-and-white illustration of the blobfish
1918 illustration of the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) by Alan Riverstone McCulloch. Image available courtesy of the Internet Archive.

Many people know about the blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus) from the viral memes and other images that showed up on newsfeeds and dashboards a couple of years ago. These pictures introduced the Internet to a sad-looking, large-nosed, gelatinous fish that was voted the “World’s Ugliest Animal” in a 2013 Ugly Animal Preservation Society poll. These images were a bit misleading about this animal’s real appearance, however. The reason this particular blobfish, Mr. Blobby, looked so sad and floppy was because he was removed from his highly pressurized environment and submerged in chemicals to aid in preservation. This made his skin color grayish and pale and tightened his skin, resulting in his nose looking droopy.

Blobfish don’t normally look like sad old men, despite what the Internet may have initially said. Since they live several thousand feet under the sea (600 to 1,200 m), they have evolved to be well adapted to handling the pressures of the ocean present at this depth and subsequently lack a swim bladder. As such, taking them out of their specialized environment vastly changes their appearance due to decompression. Blobfish typically have small eyes and gills and a pinkish, rounded body that is much shapelier than poor Mr. Blobby. Scientists have recorded males reaching almost a foot in length (30 cm).

Psychrolutes marcidus are difficult creatures to study because scientists can’t exactly study them well in their natural environment and Mr. Blobby is a testament to what happens to their appearance when removed from the ocean depths. Despite the scientific community not knowing all that much about this fascinating creature, it seems that Psychrolutes marcidus is a pretty chill animal. Like most other deepwater creatures, it moves at a relatively slow pace. This sedentary lifestyle seems to work for them! You do you, blobfish, you do you.

How many blobfish are left?

Researchers are not sure how many of these deep-sea fish are left, and there is no official listing on their conservation status. They have been caught in fishermen’s trawls, however, so humans could potentially pose a threat to these creatures (note that there is not enough data to determine this, however).

What does the blobfish look like in water?

As mentioned previously, this fish looks vastly different depending if it is in its native environment or not. This is due to the changes in pressure and the texture of the fish’s skin. In water, it much more closely looks similar to how most people would envision a fish. Out of water, it looks like it just dropped an ice cream cone.

Illustration of two pink blobfish underwater
Two blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus). Image credit: Rachel Koning (née Caauwe).

How far down does the blobfish live?

Blobfish live deep in the ocean. They can live roughly 1,970 to 3,940 ft (600 to 1,200 m). Other creatures that live at similar depths include the goblin shark and giant squid.