Despite being a meme, surprisingly little is known about the blobfish, a deep sea fish that is named for its droopy, blob-like face. Here is what scientists do know about it:
The first blobfish was discovered in 2003, about 3,323 and 4,396 feet below the surface of the water, in waters in between New Caledonia and New Zealand. It was not very famous, until 2013, when it was voted for the ugliest animal in the world by the Ugly Animal Preservation Society. The blobfish belongs to the Psychrolutidae family, which includes 30 other fish species that live in deep waters in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean.
There are four types of blobfish: the smooth head blobfish, western blobfish, blobfish sculpin, and the original blobfish found, known just as the “blobfish”.
Since blobfish live in very deep waters, they must be able to adapt to the dim light, lack of resources, and the crushing pressure.
Most deep sea fish have adaptations such as a minimal skeleton and having flesh less dense than water. This prevents them from being crushed by the water pressure, which is strong enough to crush a human. Blobfish exaggerate these adaptations by having no muscles and no skeleton. The only thing that keeps them floating is their gelatinous flesh. It is also the reason why when they are brought outside of their environment, they seem to sag- the only thing that is keeping their shape is the surrounding water (it also means that all photos of a saggy blobfish you see are in fact a dead blobfish). Blobfish also have large eyes since little to no sunlight reaches the bottom of the ocean.
The lack of sunlight also means that there are few food resources since the bottom of the ocean has no seaweed or primary producers. To reduce their use of energy, blobfish have a slow metabolism and do not stalk or look for prey. They float around the bottom of the sea floor and eat once they see prey. Scientists aren’t sure what they eat, but guess that it could be invertebrates such as sea slugs and sea urchins. They also don’t have teeth- they suck in their prey and swallow it.
Most fish also have something called a swim bladder, a gas filled organ that keeps them afloat and controls their buoyancy. Blobfish do not have a swim bladder because at such high pressure, it could get crushed by the water. They rely completely on their gelatinous flesh.
Very little is known about the life cycle of a blobfish. Scientists do know that female blobfish usually lay 9000- 10000 eggs at a time. Their eggs are pink and need to be guarded. Sometimes, a few females may lay their eggs in one region and hover over their eggs together.
The lifespan of blobfish is also a mystery. Estimates say they could live around 100 years old, since many deep fish live to be that age. However, not enough blobfish have been spotted to know a range.
Scientists also aren't sure if blobfish are endangered. They are rarely seen because it takes a lot of effort to travel so deep in the ocean. Some estimates say that blobfish are getting endangered because they could be accidentally caught in fishing nets. One estimate of the blobfish population is only 420 fish.